MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach has spent $209,000 on a consultant to develop a plan to install 5G technology in the city, however recent state and federal actions have threatened the execution of this plan.
The city hired Vantage Point Solutions in 2016 to develop a strategy to accommodate wireless carriers while maintaining the beautification efforts throughout the city.
“We’re creating safe harbor designs, a set of designs that the industry could say, ‘Alright, we like that one. Let’s use that one,’ and we can speed the approval process forward because we would have already considered that design,” explained Myrtle Beach spokesperson Mark Kruea.
Installing 5G technology throughout a city differs from the 4G systems currently in place.
The 4G technology operates with large cell towers that cover a wide area. Those towers can be placed on top of buildings or away from the everyday flow of cities.
But 5G technology, utilizes small cell devices that require more devices spread out frequently in small areas.
Kruea explained the devices will need to be installed in both residential and commercials areas.
“So in the course of a block, you may have four, five, six different sending devices. Six different sending and receiving devices that would track your cellphone through that period and that’s great if there’s just one cellphone providers but if there are ten cellphone providers then they’ve got 60 devices in a couple of block,” Kruea said.
The city is concerned about how these devices will be installed throughout the city without disrupting the beautification efforts taken.
“We’ve spent tens of millions of dollars making sure that our Public Rights-of-Ways are attractive," Kruea said. “We’ve put utilities underground and now as part of this 5G expansion we wanted to make them hide in plain sight.”
Vantage Point was looking into designs that would add the devices to existing structures, like benches, pole or trashcans, Kruea said.
Last September, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued a ruling against giving local governments authority over how 5G is installed.
“Today’s action is the next step in the FCC’s ongoing efforts to remove regulatory barriers that would unlawfully inhibit the deployment of infrastructure necessary to support these new services,” stated the FCC in September.
Myrtle Beach, along with dozens of other cities, filed an appeal against the ruling in December.
“The FCC essentially sided with the industry versus local government and said, ‘Mr. Industry, you can install pretty much whatever you want regardless of what sort of investment has been made by the local government in the Public Rights-of-Way,’” Kruea said.
In addition to the FCC’s action, South Carolina’s House of Representatives introduced and passed a bill that would also prevent cities from regulating the design, construction and installation of the technology.
The South Carolina Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act states, “local authorities cannot prohibit or regulate or charge for small wireless facilities.” The bill goes on to state wireless facilities are not subject to zoning review and approval.
South Carolina state Rep. Robert Williams sponsored the bill and said he understands the cities interest in beautification but broadband service needs to be increased throughout the state.
“I think the most important thing is getting the communication and getting it put out there and getting it deployed where folks at the beach area would have the capability to communicate,” Williams said. “When we make the laws for the state, we’re looking out for not only the beach area but all the parts of the state that probably run into the same problem, we don’t want the state to be chopped up.”
The bill is currently in a Senate committee.
While Myrtle Beach is fighting back against these actions, Kruea said even if the federal and state decisions go through the work and money with Vantage Point won’t be a waste.
“It’s been a good learning experience not just for the city but for the utilities companies as well,” Kruea said. “The service providers, they need to understand what the local government’s perspective is, that we don’t want poles and wires strung all over the sidewalk because we’ve spent money to take those poles and wires down.”