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Municipal Right-of-Way and Telecommunications

This page provides links and examples of policies regarding the authority of local governments in Washington State to regulate the process for telecommunications companies to apply for access to public rights-of-way.

It is part of MRSC's series on Telecommunications.


Federal and State Statutes and Regulations

Telecommunications ordinances are required to comply with the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. That legislation provides, among other things, that local government regulations may not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of telecommunications services. For more details, see Sprint Telephony PCS, L.P. v. County of San Diego (9th Cir. 2008).

In addition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a declaratory ruling that took effect in 2019 that is intended to speed the deployment of Fourth Generation (4G) and Fifth Generation (5G) small cell wireless facilities. Unlike traditional wireless towers, such facilities are commonly sited in rights-of-way on existing or new utility poles. For more information on the siting of small cell wireless facilities in municipal rights-of-way, see our blog post FCC’s Declaratory Ruling on 5G Small Cell Wireless Facilities. In addition, our Wireless Communication Facilities page has a section on small cell technology. 

Applicable state law provisions include the following:


Examples of Local Codes

Below are selected examples of local ordinances pertaining to telecommunications facilities in the public right-of-way.

General

Small cell


Recommended Resources


Last Modified: February 23, 2024