NLC Brings Best Practices And Small Cell Wireless Tech Guide To Cities

September 04, 2018
nlc small cell best practices

Credit: National League of Cities

Making good on its mission to help city leaders build better communities, the National League of Cities has announced plans to help cities achieve What Works Certification, and released a new Small Cell Wireless Municipal Action Guide. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans. As the largest and most representative organization for American cities and their elected leaders, its recent partnership news, along with its Guide to help cities work with small cell wireless technology, combine for a valuable pair of resources certain to be well-received by smart city networks nationwide.

Partnership Promotes Data and Evidence Best Practices

In announcing its partnership with Results for America, the Washington, DC-based National League of Cities said it is eager to enhance cities' use of data and evidence. The partnership will allow cities to achieve What Works Certification, a national standard for well-managed government. According to the August 23 news release issued by the National League of Cities, its members will have access to a first-of-its-kind workshop series through NLC University on foundational data practices that build effective local governments. The workshops will be offered through a new partnership with Results for America (RFA), a lead partner of What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies-launched initiative that helps cities use data and facts to tackle their most pressing challenges and improve residents’ lives.

“Last year, What Works Cities set a new standard of excellence in data-driven governance with the introduction of Certification,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities. “NLC is proud to partner with Results for America to bring these best practices to our membership and help them reach that bar. Together, we can drive better outcomes that have the power to improve the lives of millions of our cities’ residents.”

The NLC-RFA partnership will include programming at the 2018 City Summit in Los Angeles, other events throughout the year, and the 2019 Congressional City Conference in Washington, DC. NLC University will offer five courses to help cities build their skills in leading data and evidence practices and to advance in the What Works Cities Certification program. Members can view and enroll in the courses here.

“Leaders set the agenda for progress in their cities,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities. “Data and evidence best practices help cities clearly define problems and develop impactful solutions so that leaders can solve problems and effectively run cities. We’re excited to partner with NLC to help leaders build the skills needed to fully embrace data-driven governance and make the journey from commitment to results.”

Launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2015, What Works Cities is one of the largest-ever philanthropic efforts to enhance cities’ use of data and evidence. What Works Cities Certification is the first-of-its-kind national standard of excellence in city governance that evaluates how well cities are managed and whether cities have the right people, processes, and policies in place to put data and evidence at the center of decision-making. Nine cities have been recognized as leaders in this field and awarded certification.

For its part, Results for America (RFA) is helping decision-makers at all levels of government harness the power of evidence and data to solve the world’s greatest challenges. RFA's mission is to make investing in “what works” the new normal. As part of What Works Cities, RFA ensures a world-class experience for all participating cities, coordinates the initiative's partners, and advances a nationwide movement of cities using data and evidence in decision-making. 

New NLC Guide Helps Cities with Small Cell Wireless Technology

In its second major announcement within a week, the National League of Cities reported it has released a Small Cell Municipal Action Guide and model ordinance for city leaders.

Small cell wireless infrastructure, which is increasingly important for wireless broadband deployment and smart city technology, has traditionally been guided by federal and industry interests, as opposed to local needs, according to the August 27 news release announcing the Guide and Code. In addressing the Model Ordinance developed jointly by the NLC and National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), the NLC offered added insight for cities. In a summary, it noted that there is no single model code that will work for every jurisdiction. As such, NLC and NATOA’s model code is intended as a roadmap to assist local governments in adopting their own ordinances governing use of the rights of way by communications providers. While example language is included in some sections, we do not intend to suggest these examples could work for every jurisdiction.

“As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, every resident – no matter their zip code – should have access to broadband internet,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities (NLC). “Whether it’s a student completing homework online or a business reaching customers through a smartphone app, the strength of our communities depends on high-speed internet access for all. As cities continue to lead and pilot new technologies, we must ensure they have the necessary supports and resources at their disposal.” The “race to 5G” and small cell wireless infrastructure deployment present new challenges and opportunities for cities. Unlike traditional cellular equipment which is placed high up on single cell towers, small cell technology requires many equipment installations clustered closely together. Cities must balance the business interests of wireless providers eager to densify their networks with the management of increasingly crowded city streets and sidewalks.

In its Guide summary, NLC noted that cities also face the threat of increasing preemption of their traditional authority from state and federal policies. Several states have recently passed legislation that severely limits what cities may charge for private sector use of public streets. The Federal Communications Commission and Congress are considering policy changes that would impose new unfunded mandates on cities in the form of radically shortened application timelines and additional limits on rental rates. This guide, noted NLC, serves to explain small cell infrastructure and related policy issues in clear terms so that city leaders can thoughtfully plan for small cell deployments in their communities. The guide profiles five U.S. cities – Boston; Lincoln, Neb.; San Jose, Calif.; Raleigh, N.C., and Tempe, Ariz. – and their diverse approaches to small cell wireless infrastructure deployment.

“Thanks to NLC for helping cities to choose how they want to site small cell technology,” said Mike Lynch, director of broadband and cable for the city of Boston and president of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA). “Small cell deployments are just one part of a bigger broadband infrastructure network, and it’s important that city, state and federal leaders, as well as wireless providers, work together to find the best solutions for each community’s individual needs.”

Recommendations for city leaders, as noted in the 20-page Guide, include:

  • Gaining a full understanding of the technology and important safety considerations.
  • Articulating priorities for accommodating this technology.
  • Creating clear policies for permit review that let both city staff and industry applicants know the expectations.
  • Developing a template right-of-way access policy/agreement, as well as a city pole attachment agreement.
  • Thinking through in advance any beneficial items the city could negotiate with industry in exchange for use of the right-of-way – if allowed by state law.
  • Giving careful consideration to fee structures.

Based in Washington, DC, the National League of Cities represents member cities of all sizes across the United States, and boasts 90 years of dedication to the advancement of local governments. As noted on its website, working in partnership with the 49 state municipal leagues, NLC serves as a resource to and an advocate for the more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns it represents.

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