I-Team 8

Indiana bill would make it easier for companies to install 5G towers in neighborhoods

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An I-Team 8 investigation reveals a bill under consideration by Indiana lawmakers would let 5G towers be placed in neighborhoods, leaving cities, towns and homeowners with little or no say in the matter.

5G towers are much smaller than the cell towers that many of us have grown accustomed to seeing.

In an urban environment, 5G towers are placed on existing utility poles and if you are not looking for them can be hard to spot. But as communication companies push the technology into residential and rural areas, these towers stand out.  

The 5G towers are easy to spot in most neighborhoods. The towers are new and often times placed in areas where there has never been a utility pole. These small towers are placed in utility right-of-ways, which in some neighborhoods mean someone’s front yard.

Matt Geller is the CEO of Aim Indiana, an advocacy group for Indiana cities and towns. 

“I think what we want to be able to do is put them in the best possible location and frankly make them look as good as we possibly can from an aesthetic standpoint to protect homeowners’  property values,” said Geller.

Eric White is the president of the North Willow Farms Homeowners association for the neighborhood and the founder of an advocacy group called Hoosier Connected. He told I-Team 8 that this new bill, if passed, would open the floodgates for 5G towers.

“There is reason for us to believe that once T-Mobile and ATT, and perhaps Comcast, go through with their deployments that we could have over 100 towers in a 400-home neighborhood,” White said.

The bill as it is written would allow any communication company currently doing business in Indiana to place as many poles in the right-of-way as they see fit. Right now in Marion County, 5G towers must be a least 100 yards apart and less than 50 feet in height. This bill removes spacing and height restrictions. The city of Indianapolis has rejected dozens of permits for 5G towers in residential areas. However, this proposed bill could take away a city or county’s authority to place restrictions on 5G towers.  

“It strips away almost all local oversight, so municipalities get a 14-day shot clock, so in other words, if I’m a carrier and I file for a permit, the municipality has 14 days to respond or it is automatically approved,” said White. 

In Marion County, there have been thousands of permits filed and towers built. This bill would normalize a communication company’s access to utility right-of-ways across the state. The problem? No two right-of-ways are the same.  

“What is normal and expected and acceptable in a right-of-way, in a thoroughfare, or in business district doesn’t work in a residential area,” said White.  

The proposed legislation has an uphill battle in the Indiana Statehouse,. It was tabled for action later during its first committee hearing.