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Montgomery County Files FCC Comments and Pushes NACo to Defend Counties from Attacks on Local Zoning Authority for Small Cell Facilities

ROCKVILLE, MD., March 9, 2017—Montgomery County filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as part of the national Smart Communities Siting Coalition opposing a petition filed by telecommunications infrastructure company Mobilitie.

The petition filed by Mobilitie challenges local governments’ authority to manage the placement of, and charge rent for, communication facilities on public roads, sidewalks, and streetlights. The County filed Supplemental Comments indicating the County’s wireless policy has been successful. The County also asked that the FCC – which has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate radio frequency (RF) emissions – focus on completing the proceeding it opened four years ago to address the health effects on humans of RF emissions from telecommunications services.

This action comes on the heels of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, County Council Vice President Hans Riemer, and Council President Roger Berliner successfully sponsoring a National Association of Counties (NACo) policy resolution that opposed efforts at the Federal and State levels to preempt local zoning authority for the siting of “small cell” wireless facilities.

“We recognize that some amendment to our zoning code may be needed to address small cell facilities, which may need to be deployed deeper in neighborhoods than macro cell technology,” said Riemer. “But communities should have a say over how the infrastructure is deployed, and we should be able to charge a reasonable fee for commercial use of our roads and sidewalks. We can reach a win-win solution that enables deployment while preserving community interests.”

In the filing, the County states it is unreasonable that the Commission leaves it to local government to explain to constituents why the Commission has not updated its radio RF emission standards in 20 years. The County also points out that the FCC has neglected, in four years, to complete its work on this very issue, while simultaneously finding time, at the request of industry, to consider whether more preemption of local decision-making for small cell deployments is necessary.

“Montgomery County must retain the ability to protect residents’ interest in not crowding neighborhoods with new poles.” said Leggett. “I am confident we can do so without sacrificing our goal to keep Montgomery County the most connected County in America. But local solutions, not federal preemption, are the answer.”

Montgomery County has worked constructively with residents and the wireless industry, reviewing 2,900 applications over 20 years. To date, 1,121 wireless facilities are deployed in 534 unique locations within the County.

“We must send a clear message that any preemption efforts at the Federal or State level on this matter are not in the best interests of our County’s residents,” Berliner said. “Our County needs to retain our authority to reduce the adverse impacts of small cell towers on our residents and determine what can be done to protect the quality of life of our neighborhoods.”

More small cells are needed to meet growing demand for wireless broadband. Small cells are installed as lower heights than existing tall “macrocell” telecommunications towers. Macrocell equipment is dumpster size, whereas small cell equipment is 120-qt camping cooler size. Montgomery County has received applications for more than 250 small cell antennas in 6 months, and anticipates another 500 applications in the next 18 months.

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Appointment to the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

I am pleased to announce that Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commisison (FCC), has named me to the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.

Please see the press release below:


Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer appointed to FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

Riemer looks to deepen work promoting competitive markets for high speed Internet

January 5, 2017


ROCKVILLE, Md., January 5, 2017—Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has named Montgomery County Council Vice President Hans Riemer to serve as one of two county officials nationally on the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC).

The IAC provides guidance, expertise and recommendations to the Commission on a range of telecommunication issues for which local, state and Tribal governments explicitly or inherently share responsibility or administration with the Commission. In the 2017-19 term, the IAC will be focused on the role state and local governments play in broadband deployment and adoption, wireless infrastructure deployment, Universal Service programs, consumer complaints processes and public safety issues.

“I am honored to serve on the FCC advisory committee, and I intend to use this role to advocate for a more competitive and robust marketplace for broadband deployment,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “Local governments have a positive role to play in broadband deployment, and I look forward to bringing Montgomery County’s experience to the Commission.”

Vice President Riemer was nominated to serve by the National Association of Counties (NACo). In his letter recommending that Vice President Riemer serve on the committee, Matthew Chase, the executive director of NACo, wrote: “His experience and background uniquely qualify him to serve on the IAC. He is currently a member of both the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, as well as the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, for Montgomery County, Maryland. Through his work on these committees, he is responsible for oversight and the development of Montgomery County’s information technology and telecommunications infrastructure.”

During his six years on the Council, Vice President Riemer has strengthened Montgomery County’s digital infrastructure. The County owns and manages FiberNet, which is a 650-mile fiber optic network that connects more than 500 community anchor institutions, including public schools, the community college, libraries, recreation centers, and government buildings. With an annual budget in excess of $8 million, FiberNet is a critical piece of the County’s ability to efficiently and effectively deliver services to residents.

Council Vice President Riemer has worked to strengthen the County’s investment in FiberNet by successfully funding a 24/7 carrier-class network operations center and putting forward a strategic plan to make the governance and funding of FiberNet more sustainable.

He also has championed the growing deployment of Chromebooks in the County’s public schools and public wifi in urban districts. In addition, he has been a major supporter of the County Government’s ultraMontgomery initiative, which utilizes FiberNet to promote economic development in the County’s strategic industries of life-science, bio-technology and cybersecurity. UltraMontgomery recently facilitated a direct fiber connection from Ashburn, Va., to Montgomery County, strengthening the capacity of the County’s data networks and data centers.

Vice President Riemer is currently working on policies that promote a more competitive market for broadband networks and services. These policies are “Dig Once,” “One Touch Make Ready” and “broadband-ready” building codes.

“Communities need local government officials to put planning for high-speed data networks on the same level as planning for transportation, power and water networks,” said Vice President Riemer. “It is an evolving policy area and I hope by serving on the Committee that I will be able to identify ways for the FCC to support the work of local government. I also look forward to providing a voice for local communities on 5G deployment, an issue with which our County is currently grappling.”

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Riemer elected Council Vice President in 2017

I would like to thank my colleagues on the County Council for placing their trust me in to serve as the Council Vice President in 2017.

Councilmember George Leventhal nominated me for the position. His remarks succinctly described my work at the Council, and I wanted to share them with you.

Following is a video, which we transcribed as well (lightly edited).

I’m delighted to place in nomination Hans Riemer’s name to be our next Council Vice-President. Hans has been an extraordinary leader in digital technology, making sure that the entire County is abreast of 21st century telecommunications, that we provide the benefits of up-to-date telecommunications to all of our residents. Hans has been a particularly strong advocate for the benefits and amenities of urban living and nightlife. He has continually emphasized that we need to make this County attractive to the next generation of skilled workers, including the lifestyle elements that bring people here and make people want to stay. Among those is a more modern approach to liquor control. I enjoyed serving with Hans on the special committee for liquor control. I regret that we were not given the opportunity to implement that committee’s recommendations, and I still think that, had we privatized beer and wine sales as the County Council had recommended, it would have successfully diminished the many complaints that we continue to hear from the retail sector. And we could have continued back and kept reforming, but that did not occur. I was very impressed with the depth and seriousness with which Councilmember Riemer looked into that issue. I was especially impressed when I heard him speak him speak on Kojo Nnamdi’s show about the issue. He exhibited all the qualities that both make him very likeable but also very persuasive that have enabled his constituents and his colleagues to have confidence in his leadership. He takes a very balanced approach to issues. He considers all sides. The highest praise that I can give to a fellow Councilmember is that he is a good colleague. He is available to listen. He is available to work through and discuss the complex, fine points of issues. I know that he will be a good listener as Council Vice President and in any future leadership posts that a future Council or this Council may identify him to serve in. The only disagreement I have with Councilmember Riemer is that he decided to buy a house in Takoma Park. That meant that out of four At-Large Councilmembers, three reside in the same municipality….But I know that his neighbors enjoy having him there, and I also know, more importantly, that he works very hard to represent the interests of the entire County, not any one part of the County. That is the responsibility that falls to all of us who serve in an At-large capacity. With all of that, I place in nomination Hans Riemer’s name for Council Vice President.

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Montgomery County Moving at the Speed of Ideas

Yesterday, the County announced an exciting partnership between Bytegrid and USA Fiber that will bring additional ultra-high speed internet connectivity to the County. With support from my Council colleagues and the County Executive, I have been working hard to make digital infrastructure a higher priority for Montgomery County. This partnership shows what can happen when you get the right people around the table. I congratulate County Executive Ike Leggett for this new fiber network partnership, which will make our data networks more competitive and strengthen our economic position in the region. I look forward to keeping the momentum going on our broadband strategy.

Read the press release below:


Montgomery County Moving at the Speed of Ideas

June 16, 2016


ROCKVILLE, MD — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett was joined by County Councilmember Hans Riemer to announce the partnership between USA Fiber and White Oak data center Bytegrid, which represents a new milestone in the creation of the Ashburn Fiber Express. The Ashburn Fiber Express is a key component of Leggett’s ultraMontgomery Broadband Economic Program. ultraMontgomery will create faster, more reliable, fiber connections for Montgomery County and Maryland data centers, businesses, and research institutions to reach major data centers in Virginia.

USA Fiber’s low-latency, direct fiber route, built underneath the Potomac River, will connect Bytegrid, a preeminent data center within the County, to a 7-mile ring of more than 30 data centers in Ashburn, Va. Ashburn is the data center hub for all Internet traffic and “cloud services” on the East Coast. More than 90% of all East Coast Internet routes use one of the 10,000 Internet connection points in Ashburn.

“Internet connectivity and network infrastructure enable our economy to move at the speed of our ideas,” said Leggett. “Using the improved fiber connectivity provided by USA Fiber’s Ashburn Express, Bytegrid can offer the opportunity for federal agencies, research institutions, and large businesses in Montgomery County to have the convenience of installing and accessing equipment locally; the security of using a federal information security standard-compliant facility; and the ease of connectivity to other data centers.”

A shorter, direct fiber route to Ashburn could lower broadband networking costs, reduce latency by 25%, improve network reliability, enhance speed and network security, and add critical path diversity to Ashburn for all entities in the Montgomery County-Baltimore-Northeast U.S. corridor. Local businesses and fiber providers, accessing USA Fiber’s Ashburn Express, will have another option to provide a diverse route for their communications, ensuring continuous access to the Internet.

“With support from my Council colleagues and the County Executive, I have been working hard to make digital infrastructure a higher priority for Montgomery County,” said, Councilmember Hans Riemer. “This great initiative shows what can happen when you get the right people around the table. I congratulate the County Executive for this new fiber network partnership, which will make our data networks more competitive and strengthen our economic position in the region. I look forward to keeping the momentum going on our broadband strategy.”

With this new Bytegrid-USA Fiber partnership, and the opening of the USA Fiber Ashburn Express in September, this public-private partnership requires minimal investment of public funds; it will provide state-of-art ultra high-speed service; and it will make gigabit Internet connectivity better in Montgomery County than in Fairfax.

Economic Benefits of a Direct Montgomery County-Ashburn Fiber Route Include:

  • Bolstering knowledge-based economy.
  • Stimulating job growth in “Advanced Industries.”
  • Enhancing the competitiveness of private and public sector employers.
  • Bridging the gap in Internet traffic flow between key data centers in Ashburn, Va. and business centers in Maryland.
  • Promoting Montgomery County and the State of Maryland as a hub for technology innovation.

The ultraMontgomery program, a key component of Leggett’s 6-Point Economic Plan, is designed to grow and attract the knowledge-based businesses that rely on ultra-high speed broadband networks. When the County’s East County Fiber Highway opens in 2017, businesses near the County’s FiberNet infrastructure and the Maryland Inter-County Broadband Network can use the County’s fiber as an “on-ramp” to USA Fiber’s Ashburn Express and to Bytegrid and other data centers within the County.

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