Verizon Wireless: Licenses Are Temporary

This is a follow up to my earlier post Verizon Wireless: Easements Are Forever.

Norwich should consider a license for a period of years, rather than an easement in perpetuity, for Verizon Wireless to use the town’s right of way. Whether called a license, lease, easement or something else, the Town should limit the duration, not give a grant that lasts forever.  Based on less than exhaustive internet search, a license agreement is the arrangement major cities use when a telecom wants to deploy hundreds of small cell antenna on municipal owned poles or in municipal right of ways. [See link below for the detailed Boston license agreement with Verizon Wireless.] 

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The Town need not start from scratch in crafting a license agreement. Rather, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns might be a resource for examples or templates. In the alternative, the Selectboard or Town Manager could contact others who have dealt with the Verizon Wireless recently.  For example, in 2017, Verizon Wireless filed de minimis applications with the Vermont PUC to place antenna: on about a dozen utility poles, in two church steeples, and on two buildings, according to the PUC online case management system that the public can access. [See link below.] Contacting those towns and landowners might be useful.  Indeed, in order to expedite the process, perhaps the Selectboard could ask Verizon Wireless for a copy of a municipal license or lease agreement that it has used.  If every Vermont town gave Verizon Wireless a perpetual easement for $1000, then shame on the towns and a hat tip to Big Telecom. 

Here are some key terms for  the Town of Norwich to consider in allowing the use of its right of way.  
  • Design. The antenna and equipment should be in accordance with the plans submitted to the Selectboard, not in any “shapes, sizes and configurations” that Verizon Wireless wants.  Also, the installation should not interfere with public safety communication systems. 
  • Term. The license should be for a period of years and afterwards the antenna and equipment must be removed at the expense of company
  • Price. Reasonable compensation for access the right of way. Indemnification and insurance provisions to protect the Town also matter. 
If legal fees are incurred by the Town, perhaps the telecom should reimburse those outlays if reasonable. 

Finally, this may or may not be an one time installation. VTel and AT&T Wireless might be next. Plus, these small cell antenna may proliferate [one can dream!] as a means to provide service to outlying areas.  In case of further applications, the Town might be hard pressed to require competitors or Verizon Wireless to satisfy different terms. Accordingly, might be best to get it right the first time through. 

None of the foregoing should be construed as legal advice. The Norwich Observer is not qualified to provide any. 

The statutory provision for making a de minimis applications to the PUC for a certificate of public good for telecommunications facilities is at 30 V.S.A § 248a(k) 

Permits may be required to use a town right of way under 19 V.S.A § 1111 and  30 V.S.A. §§  2502, 2503, and may required to be recorded with the Town Clerk, 19 V.S.A § 1111(i) .


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