Cities Fight AT&T over Cell Phone Towers

Feb 27, 2015

Cell phone companies are going head to head at the statehouse with Iowa’s towns and cities.

State lawmakers are trying again this year to pass legislation to ease the way for new towers without stirring up opposition in neighborhoods. 

Dustin Blythe with AT&T says more and more Iowans are dropping their landlines and relying on wireless only.

“We are seeing increasing demand for mobile services,” Blythe says.   “They need faster services and better coverage so we need more towers.   We’re trying to do that in a way that minimizes the impact to our friends in the cities.”

But officials with the Iowa League of Cities say the legislation would tie their hands if they deny a permit for a tower and end up in court.    Lobbyist Dustin Miller says, for example, a company may want to put up a 110 foot tower on half an acre of land in an area zoned for only 100 feet.

 “A lot of our communities want wireless service in their communities badly.” Miller says.  “That’s not what we’re trying to hinder here.   We’re just trying to make sure we don't have the neighborhood associations come out when a pole gets put inside a neighborhood.”

Both cities and counties are registered against the bill while AT&T and Verizon are lobbying for it. 

The bill cleared a three-member panel, with Republicans signing on and the lone Democrat declining to sign.

By federal law, local authorities may not prohibit personal wireless service.