Backchannel: First, Santa Monica already had dark fiber available to its streetlights and traffic signal poles because of its 100 gigabit CityNet network. As such, the city could make sure that all of these connections were working well and were reasonably priced. by Susan Crawford
'Second, Santa Monica controls most of its streetlights. Southern California Edison recently ran a 30-month program aimed at selling those streetlights to California cities. It was a win-win move: SCE wanted to gradually get out of the light- and power-distribution business, and cities that bought these streetlights could replace traditional streetlights with LED bulbs. LED: lower energy use; lower maintenance costs. (The SCE program ended last summer.)
'But the third step was the charm: This past summer, Santa Monica adopted an ordinance requiring that wireless carriers get access to Santa Monica’s streetlights and traffic signal poles only on a neutral basis. It also sets design requirements for these rights-of-way assets, emphasizing the need for nice-looking poles that conceal gear. But the important thing is that carriers will not be able, in the words of former Santa Monica CIO Jory Wolf, to “delay or preclude” competition. The desired result: no one can lock up these poles.
'Companies have figured out that streetlight access is valuable territory. As Wolf warns, “All the controversy about the telephone poles is now going to be moved to streetlight poles. Companies are looking for exclusive rights to poles and saying they can’t co-locate [with their competitors]. They’re all hiring firms to lock up their permits and rights to as many poles as possible, as quickly as possible, before governments can organize.” Santa Monica’s new ordinance gets ahead of this game plan and defeats it. Streetlight access will be standardized and subject to a reasonable monthly fee charged by the city.'