On July 5, 2013, Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri signed into law HB 331 – the “Uniform Wireless Communications Infrastructure Deployment Act” (the “Act”).  The purpose of the Act is “to encourage and streamline the deployment of broadband facilities and to help ensure that robust wireless communication services are available throughout Missouri.” The Act is decidedly favorable for the wireless industry and for broadband deployment in general, as it limits the ability of local authorities to place onerous requirements or restrictions on wireless facility siting applications.

Under the Act, when considering applications for the construction of wireless facilities, a local authority may not question the applicant's business decisions regarding the design of the network, customer demand for service, or quality of service.  The Act further prohibits an authority from evaluating an application based on the availability of other potential locations for a facility, although an authority may require an applicant to state whether it analyzed available collocation opportunities within the same search ring.  As a result, an applicant is able to focus on finding the best location to maximize coverage within a given search ring, without being constrained by, for example, a hierarchy of preferred locations determined by the local authority.  Additionally, an authority may not dictate the type of technology used by an applicant to deploy its facilities.  For example, an authority may not require an applicant to construct a DAS system instead of a traditional wireless support structure.  This restriction will also ensure that applicants do not have to compromise their business model and network design in order to provide coverage in a given area.  Further, an authority may not unreasonably dictate the appearance of wireless facilities, such as what types of materials are used or how the facility must be screened or landscaped. But, this leaves some discretion to the local authority so long as the requirements are "reasonable," which is not further defined within the Act.

In addition, an authority may not impose application fees or other requirements that are not imposed in connection with similar types of commercial development within the jurisdiction.  And, an authority may not condition an approval on leasing collocation space to the government at less than market rates.  The Act also reinforces the federal law prohibition against denying applications based on perceived or alleged environmental effects of radio frequency emissions.

The Act also prohibits an authority from instituting a moratorium on the permitting, construction or issuance of approval for wireless facilities if the moratorium exceeds six months and if no good cause is shown.  Any moratorium must not affect pending applications.

Finally, the Act requires authorities to render final decisions on new wireless applications within 120 calendar days of receiving an application for a new wireless facility, 90 days for a “substantial modification” application, and 45 days for a collocation application.  The FCC’s Wireless Shot Clock Order dictates that 150 days is a presumptively reasonable time to act on applications for new wireless facilities and 90 days for collocation applications. The Missouri Act defines a substantial modification as, inter alia, an increase in the vertical height of an existing structure by more than 10% of the existing height.   The wireless facility citing language of HB 331 was originally proposed as part of HB 345, which otherwise dealt with rates, terms and conditions for pole attachments.  To read more about HB 345, which was signed into law on the same day as HB 331, click here.