Cuddy & Feder’s Telecommunications Practice, led by Christopher Fisher and Lucia Chiocchio, guided Homeland Towers, LLC and AT&T through contested cases before the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) securing approvals for two new tower facilities in the towns of New Canaan and Kent Connecticut. These communities along the Gold Coast of Connecticut and in the Litchfield Hills have historically lacked reliable wireless services, including public safety emergency communications. State approvals for these new tower infrastructure projects will fulfill the long-standing critical demand for network services to the public in parts of the state that have been unserved since the advent of commercial cellular.
The CSC is a state agency that has exclusive jurisdiction over new wireless tower infrastructure in Connecticut. Its role under state law is to find and balance the public need for any new tower with its environmental effects in ruling on applications. The process, however, is not like municipal zoning at all. Prior to submitting an application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (Certificate), applicants must formally consult with the local municipality and file a technical report. Once that is done, a CSC application is filed which involves motions, interrogatories, cross-examination of witnesses and public hearings that are considered a contested case conducted via the State’s administrative procedure act. In these particular Dockets, the CSC considered new towers in suburban and rural communities with unique sets of facts.
New Canaan conducted a resident survey in 2012 where 94% of respondents reported dropped calls and an independent study in 2014 concluded that gaps in wireless service would need to be remedied by new tower facilities in several locations. After twenty years of industry searches for a tower site in one particular area of the Town, Homeland Towers teamed with AT&T to propose a 90’ tall monopine on a site it could secure a lease. Virtual evidentiary hearings, formal intervention by opponents of the tower and a significant review was conducted by the CSC during the pandemic with a record built leading to the CSC’s September 2020 issuance of a Certificate for the new tower site.
In Kent, the combination of the Berkshire foothills varying topography and a community argument regarding small cells were the principal issues presented to the CSC as part of that new tower site needed for public safety agency and consumer wireless services. Homeland and AT&T teamed up again proposing two tower site alternatives for the CSC’s consideration. Testimony about FirstNet and local first responder support for the tower as an important part of the nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network approved by Congress were presented to the CSC. Numerous hearings and testimony of those opposed to the tower sites was also heard by the agency. In December 2020, approximately ten months after the application was submitted, the CSC approved a Certificate for a 135’ tall monopole facility at one of the two proposed sites.
In each of these contested administrative cases, Cuddy & Feder’s attorneys guided the applicants through multiple evidentiary hearings, argued numerous motions, briefed legal issues, effectively cross-examined the intervenors’ witnesses and ultimately aided the agency with its duty to engage in objective fact finding and apply state statutes to two tower projects critical to first responder and wireless services to the public in Connecticut.