An Update on Cell Tower Regulations

Association of Construction and Development
August 31, 2012 — 1,498 views  

Cell towers are ubiquitous and important parts of our daily lives, transmitting the signals we need to make phone calls, send text messages and surf the internet while on-the-go. However, they are also largely invisible, as laymen tend to ignore the various processes that go into erecting these towers. In truth, cell tower regulations are extremely stringent, as implemented and monitored by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Here are some cell tower regulations to take note of.

The first and most important regulation to keep in mind regards safety, especially when it comes to the signals that these towers transmit. According to the FCC's website, cellular radio services transmit at frequencies between 824 and 894 megahertz (MHZ), while Personal Communications Service (PCS) transmitters use frequencies in the range of 1850 - 1990 MHz. Typically, the antennas used for these types of transmissions are located on towers or other elevated structures. The combination of antennas and associated equipment is known as a cellular or PCS base station. Heights for these base station structures must be between 50 and 200 feet. Ensuring that transmissions operate at the aforementioned frequencies and within the listed heights is the first regulation enforced by the FCC.

Exposure to radiofrequency emissions must also be regulated to ensure that nearby residents are not harmed. This is even more important when the base stations are situated near homes or schools. According to the FCC's website, the commission has adopted safety limits for emissions that are based on recommendations of expert organizations. Towers must ensure that their power levels stay thousands of times below safety limits. Antennas for radio and television broadcast transmissions tend to be higher, drawing the watchful eye of the FCC.

Additionally, telecommunications towers are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The aforementioned organizations typically review an impending tower's potential impact to its environmental and cultural surroundings, according to Globe Street. Among the things that a joint NEPA/FCC review would look at include wilderness areas, wildlife preserves, historic places, Native American religious sites, high intensity white lights, endangered and threatened species in the nearby ecosystem and radio frequency radiation. Only by passing this review and other stringent FCC cell tower regulations can radio towers be erected.

Association of Construction and Development