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Let the California Utility Pole Authority Games Begin

Let the games begin. The “California Utility Pole Authority” (the alter-ego DBA of Mobilitie”) is showing plans with their DBA in big loud letters. Here’s an example:

"California Utility Pole Authority" Project Cover Page

“California Utility Pole Authority” Project Cover Page

I obtained this public record document from a local government in California and redacted the site-specific identifiable information, including the site identification of the carrier Sprint which remains a secret.  The specific site design proposed in the project was, in my opinion, simply awful. Strapping external conduits on concrete poles? Drip loops? Really? I don’t know of any savvy California governments that would entertain such a design. 

Hopefully, Mobilitie the California Utility Pole Authority will learn quickly that a rather poor site design that may play in other parts of the country won’t play here in California.

By the way, at last count today, Mobilitie has registered DBAs as the following:

Alaska Utility Pole Authority
Arizona Utility Pole Authority
Arkansas Utility Pole Authority
Florida Utility Pole Authority
Georgia Utility Pole Authority
Illinois Utility Pole Authority
Indiana Utility Pole Authority
Minnesota Utility Pole Authority
Missouri Utility Pole Authority
North Dakota Utility Pole Authority
Ohio Utility Pole Authority
Oregon Utility Pole Authority
Pennsylvania Utility Pole Authority
Rhode Island Utility Pole Authority
Vermont Utility Pole Authority
West Virginia Utility Pole Authority
Wisconsin Utility Pole Authority
Wyoming Utility Pole Authority

Now that’s a LOT of Utility Pole Authority, if you ask me!



Rome (Maine) Conquers Global Tower Assets

GLOBAL TOWER ASSETS, LLC sued the Town of Rome, Maine and its Planning Board for a denial of a cell site project.

Unfortunately for Global Tower, it sued after receiving the Planning Board’s denial.  It did not take an appeal to the Town.  The District Court hearing the case “held that the Planning Board’s denial of the application was not a final action that Applicants were entitled to challenge under the TCA.” (Internal quotes omitted.)

Global appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which sustained the District Court’s ruling against the tower company.  The Court of Appeals said,

The appellants contend that the opportunity to bring an
administrative appeal should not prevent their TCA challenge from
going forward. But, in keeping with basic principles of
administrative law and the purposes of the TCA, we disagree. As
a matter of state law, the planning board’s denial may be reviewed
in state court only after the local board of appeals has exercised
its own independent review. As a result, we agree with the
appellees — the planning board and the Town of Rome, Maine —
that the planning board’s decision does not mark the end of the
administrative process and thus is not a “final action” for TCA

If you’d like to read the Court of Appeals’ decision, CLICK HERE.

This reminds me of a case I was involved in many years ago when NewPath Networks sued the City of Irvine before completing the administrative process.



Want to Sell Your Cell Site Lease? Read the Fine Print!

electwarnWant to Sell your Cell Site Lease?

Our law firm helps landlords monetize (read: sell) their cell tower or cell site lease.  It’s a very specialized area of land-use and technology law. There are times such deals make sense, and many more times when they don’t, but you should discuss your situation with a competent lawyer, AND a competent tax CPA.

Many Pitfalls When You Sell your Cell Site Lease!

There are many pitfalls in the standard boilerplate agreements provided by the big guys who buy-out leases.  One of my favorite pitfalls is language in the agreement that says that upon termination of the buyout, the landlord has to accept as-is whatever agreements the buy-out firm put in place before the expiration of their contract or easement.  Here’s the stinker:  Let’s say you sell your cell tower lease for 30 years.  During that time the original lease you sold expires, and the buy out enters into a new agreement for 100 years, taking a single payment of, say $1,000,000.  In 30 years, you get the lease rights back, but find yourself with a cell site on your property for 70 years with NO INCOME and other bad terms.  Yes, this really can happen to you if you’re not careful.

The (Two) Cell Site Lease Sale Documents Count

It’s common for a cell site lease sale to involve two documents: The contract selling the cell site lease to the buy-out firm, and an easement that allows them to enter into new agreements when your current lease expires.  There are pitfalls in each, so if you’re not going to have a competent attorney help you, be very careful to think about how you might be stung by some of the more obscure terms in the agreements.  Here’s a tip:  The more words in a fully-justified paragraph, the more likely bad things are contained therein.  It’s a old lawyer’s gambit.  Presume that people won’t/can’t read and understand densely worded and long paragraphs.  Stick the bad (for the seller) stuff in the middle of those paragraphs.

Don’t get bit.  Need some help?  Give me a call at Telecom Law Firm on 310-405-7333.


Cell Site Question: How Much is an Acre of Land Worth in the U.S.?

My mentor and colleague, John Pestle of the Varnum, LLP and I teach online lectures about wireless leasing matters.  We have taught these wireless leasing

John Pestle, Esq. Varnum Law Firm.

John Pestle, Esq. of the Varnum, LLP.

lectures for many years.  Our lectures, taught through Lorman Education Services and the International Municipal Lawyers Association focus on key things a wireless site landlord should be thinking about when entering into a decades-long cell site lease, or modifying a lease already in effect.

The number one question we get from our lecture participants is always the same: ‘How much is the going rent?’

John has a splendid way of answering that question.  He replies socratically asking the question: ‘How much is an acre of land worth in the United States?’

The point, of course, is that every parcel of land is unique; therefore there cannot be a single right answer.  Rather, the more complete answer is ‘How much is a specific acre of land worth to the Lessee and Lessor.’  The potential cell site landlord has one opinion of worth, while the potential wireless carrier tenant has its own view.

The question is then, how to figure out the ballpark.

You will find precious few wireless lease rates on the web.  A few years ago, John and I conducted a national survey of lease rates for cell sites on government properties, and the findings can be summarized as follows:  Lease rates are all over the map, but there’s a general range between a few hundred dollars per month to over $5,000 per month.  What makes one cell site only worth a few hundred dollars a month and another many times that amount?

Location, location, location and need, need, need.

A cell site lease in a rural area will produce lease income for the landlord than will one in a suburban area.  A downtown lease will most often induce a higher rent than a suburban lease.  An interstate-adjacent lease will induce a higher rent than some downtown rents.  A financial district lease is somethings at the top of the pile as goes rent.

Here’s a kicker…

What is an exceptionally desirable area to lease in for one wireless company can be completely worthless for another wireless company.  That is because each carrier deploys it coverage in a different manner.

Consider each company’s coverage needs to be a jigsaw puzzle of the same outside dimensions, say 10 miles by 10 miles, which each puzzle having different shaped pieces to fill in the coverage picture inside the edges of the puzzle.  A missing piece for one carrier might already be found and inserted for another.

Here’s another kicker…

Lease rates can be completely disconnected from the size of the leased area. That’s because the wireless carrier will often try and grab land claiming that some elements of your land are less valuable to them than others. They might say something like, ‘we value the space occupied by the equipment cabinets to be more valuable than the space occupied by the tower, so you should, too.’ (By the way, don’t fall for this sucker punch. Your land is most likely to have a single per square foot or per cubic foot rent (yes, some leases have three dimensions specified of height, width and depth, rather than the more common two dimensions of width and depth).

There’s more to say about this, and I will, but for now I’ll leave you with this…

BEWARE of leases where the wireless carrier wants to occupy a 100 foot by 100 foot space (10,000 square feet). This rather magic number is far greater than I’ve ever seen a wireless carrier need for its own site, which can be from 250 square feet to about 700 square feet. So why would a wireless carrier want the extra many thousands of square feet? So that it can sublease your land to other wireless carriers, broadcasters, two-way radio companies, paging firms (yes, they still exist) and the like so that your tenant can collect and put that subrent in their pocket instead of your.

There are some very effective means to avoid the sublease trap. We commonly implement those means in leases we write for landlords to maximize the sublease rental income of the wireless landlords who rely on our expertise and experience.





T-Mobile’s CellSpot – Washington Post Says Think Twice

T-Mobile CellSpot

T-Mobile’s Free CellSpot: Hidden Costs?

I posted earlier today about my concerns regarding T-Mobile’s CellSpot.  Beyond the concerns I wrote about, the Washington Post today has a very informative piece about how this device will metaphorically reach into the wallets and purses of T-Mobile subscribers who opt to install a CellSpot.  An important read.

Now we know one way T-Mobile might intend to to fund its largess.

Washington Post: T-Mobile CellSpot – THINK TWICE


T-Mobile’s CellSpot: You Cover What They Can’t

T-Mobile CellSpot

I’m simply amazed by the press coverage T-Mobile is getting from the announcement that it will offer free 3G/4G/4G-LTE hot spots. As their Fact Sheet says, “the 4G LTE CellSpot ensures customers with a limited signal will now have strong, dependable voice and data coverage in their home or small business.”

“Here Spot!” “Heeeeer . . . → Read More: T-Mobile’s CellSpot: You Cover What They Can’t

AB 57 Webinar by Telecom Law Firm on 10/21/15.

[UPDATE: Of the 99 slots available, only about 10 are left. If you qualify to participate, please DO NOT wait to register.]

On October 9th, Governor Brown signed AB 57 (Quirk) into law. This new statute turns the wireless development review process upside down, and specifically:

• creates a new special “deemed-approval” for new and . . . → Read More: AB 57 Webinar by Telecom Law Firm on 10/21/15.

California AB 57 to be Signed by Gov. Brown Today

I have learned that Gov. Brown is expected to sign AB 57 into law later today. The provisions of the new law will become effective on January 1, 2016. AB 57 says that if a local government does not approve or disapprove a wireless project within 150 days for a new site, or 90 days . . . → Read More: California AB 57 to be Signed by Gov. Brown Today

Wireless Lease Negotiations: Privileges, Not Rights

My law firm professionals and I have negotiated hundreds of leases, lease modifications, agreements, ordinances, etc. over the years. We repeated hear the wireless carriers talk about the ‘rights’ they must have.

Nope. That’s not how it works for the savvy landlord.

We advise clients (and just about anyone else who will listen) that the . . . → Read More: Wireless Lease Negotiations: Privileges, Not Rights

Cell Co. to Potential Landlord: Use an Attorney and You’ll Regret It.

I’m simply amazed by many of the tactics used by wireless carrier agents (and therefore condoned by the carrier masters).

Most recently, carrier agents for several big wireless carriers have starting telling potential cell site landlords that if those potential landlords retain the services of outside counsel to help negotiate the lease, there will be . . . → Read More: Cell Co. to Potential Landlord: Use an Attorney and You’ll Regret It.

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