The Broadband Lifeline in a Pandemic: Tools to Manage Wireless Siting in a Crisis and Move Application Processes Online

Shawn Thompson, VP/Analytics

Much of the nation’s workforce remains homebound, but utilities, cities, and counties are not seeing any slowdown in applications for the installation of small wireless facilities (commonly called “small cells”) on light poles and other locations.

Given the pressures on communities to process applications, this is a moment when you may need surge capabilities to continue efficiently receiving, processing, and evaluating wireless siting applications without endangering your employees.

An online portal is one tested, valuable tool for quickly (and remotely) receiving siting applications. Our wireless siting team operates such a portal for many large jurisdictions; it receives and performs initial processing of hundreds of applications annually. Smaller jurisdictions can also benefit from such a portal because it reduces the need to redirect staff resources to the mechanics of receiving, logging, and conducting initial reviews of siting applications. This may be particularly valuable now, when many public employees are working from home and are unavailable to handle paper applications onsite.

CTC’s online intake and management process comes with multiple benefits and efficiencies that speed processing and protect your community interests. First, the online portal will automatically reject an application if it is incomplete and will pause the application process if an applicant misses a step. Second, it will make it easier to avoid multiple review iterations and associated costs. And third, it creates a more clearly visible record and database that protects your community’s interests over the long term. At the same time, it can reduce the time spent on reviewing applications for completeness, allowing more of your effort to go toward substantive analysis and validation of the application.

This immediate crisis is creating a burden on communities, but at the same time, the need for high-speed broadband and mobile service may also mean it makes sense to prioritize approvals for network improvements that will allow residents to remain connected to work and school.

Given that the pandemic is unfolding during a period of rapid installation of what are expected to be millions of small cells nationwide, now may be the time to implement an online system and bring on help to handle surges. When employees return to the building, you will be able to help maintain social distancing and keep them safe.

Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can help you think through this strategy in your jurisdiction. And for more details on this topic, see this CTC presentation and list of strategies you can use to protect your community’s assets, interests, and public safety.

Published: Thursday, April 16, 2020 by CTC Technology & Energy