MCALLEN, Texas – A hearing is underway over a lawsuit against the State of Texas by a number of cities around the Rio Grande Valley. Elected officials are voicing their disapproval over two laws that could change the way telecommunication companies work.
Communication towers are at the forefront of a lawsuit involving 58 cities in Texas, including 13 from the Rio Grande Valley. The lawsuit was first filed in 2017 by the city of McAllen against the State of Texas. It’s challenging two laws, SB 1004 and SB 1152. The laws allow wireless providers and telecommunication companies like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile to place cell towers on public properties.
The problem, according to the Texas Municipal League, is telecom companies are paying smaller fees to the cities than they should. The lawsuit contends it also makes it harder for smaller telecom companies to compete against the corporate giants.
Mayor Jim Darling, city of McAllen said, “You know phone companies and cable companies merged and affiliates and all that. So, by the stroke of the legislature they’re only going to pay one franchise to you, when they had to pay two. In order to show a constitutional obligation that has to have a benefit, where’s the benefit if we’re letting you off from paying it.”
The hearing is seeking an injunction for these two laws in hopes of prohibiting large telecom corporations from using public lands to place their cell towers or at least have them pay a fair market price to cities like the eleven in the Valley that are part of the lawsuit.
A judge is set to make a decision on whether a temporary injunction will be placed.