Lawyers Seek Funds for Cities Effort


Municipal attorneys are trying to raise a war chest to help
fight a bureaucratic battle against several upcoming Federal Communications Commission
inquiries that local officials fear will curtail cities'
telecommunications-regulatory rights.

A memo distributed to cities by Grand Rapids, Mich.-based
law firm Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett mentions a case started by the FCC to
examine local laws on telecommunications-antenna siting.

The FCC will also consider allowing multiple telephone
companies to place their wires in buildings and to put antennas on buildings without
permission from the building owners. And the commission will consider pre-empting local
management of rights-of-way and compensation.

The case poses "a severe threat to state and local
authority in the preceding areas, as well as to basic property rights," according to
John W. Pestle, an attorney at the firm. Varnum, Riddering has asked municipalities to
contribute $300 each toward filings that the firm will make to fight proposed changes in
current local policy.

On the roof-rights issue, the FCC would allow
telecommunications companies to extend their wires to any tenant of a building requesting
services. But municipal attorneys don't want building, zoning, safety and
environmental codes voided.

Further, the firm argued, if the FCC implements a broad
interpretation of rights-of-way to include the exterior of buildings, the same loose
application may extend to streets and highways.

The FCC will also collect information on telco claims that
state and local governments continue to use rights-of-way management and compensation
practices in ways that carriers believe are unreasonable and anti-competitive.

Municipal legislators believe FCC authority over
rights-of-way ended with the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Cities have until Sept. 2 to respond to the plea for