New Texas law could enhance cell phone coverage

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - A new state law took effect on Friday regulating the placement of wireless signal boosters. They're intended to help all of us who've had a call dropped who have trouble connecting to our cell providers.

Next Tuesday, Wichita Falls city councilors will consider amending a citywide ordinance to adopt the changes required by the new law.

Network providers are wanting to add more nodes to increase network coverage. That is why the state passed Senate Bill 1004. They wanted to protect city right-of-ways and vital infrastructure.

Wichita Falls city leaders see this as an opportunity to enhance cell phone coverage, and at no cost.

"This is for the protection of the right-of-ways, for protection of other infrastructure in the right-of-ways," Deputy Director of Public Works, Teresa Rose said. "And it also ensures we know who is in our right-of-ways."

Company's like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile want to install more network nodes, small devices that can be placed virtually anywhere to improve cell service throughout the state.

The news law allows them to do that, but the state wants to make sure they go up in the right places, so they don't interfere with things like traffic lights or water meters and other pieces of a city's infrastructure.

Wichita Falls Mayor, Stephen Santellana, understands why the state wants to regulate it.

"We don't always agree with blanket decisions when it affects municipalities," Mayor Santellana said. "We like to look at those things separately, each-by-each, piece-by-piece. But we can understand something like this when it comes to communication, and it might affect somebody statewide."

In a statement to Newschannel 6, AT&T said:

"SB 1004 will help consumers and small businesses by improving the quality of the networks where they live, work and play. Importantly, small cells are part of the foundation for tomorrow's 5G technology. AT&T is always investing in our communications infrastructure. In fact, from 2014 ­to 2016, AT&T invested nearly $6.8 billion in Texas wired and wireless networks. These investments drive a wide range of upgrades to reliability, coverage, speed and overall performance for residents and businesses. They also improve critical services that support public safety and first responders. AT&T looks forward to working with the City of Wichita Falls to bring the benefits of small cells to the city in the near future. " - Adrianna Bernal, Assistant Vice President-Public Affairs, Texas.

Rose said not much will change for the city with the new law.

"We want to make sure that all the vital infrastructure is maintained, stays in place, it's not interrupted to the customer," she said.

"I do get complaints about people who don't have cell phone signals," Mayor Santellana said. "And there's not a lot I can do for that. If this helps that situation then we're fine with it, as long as it's done in a responsible manner."

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