Looking ahead, we aim to enhance Lansing and East Lansing’s existing wireless infrastructure by deploying a small cell network of low-powered antennas called "nodes." Small cell nodes are installed on right of way infrastructure like utility poles and streetlights, are connected by fiber optic cable and can handle large amounts of data at high speeds. Working in partnership with local city staff, we will enable connectivity across these communities while paving the way for next-generation networks such as 5G.

Why your community needs more wireless infrastructure.

Known as the “Heart of Michigan,” Lansing and neighboring East Lansing are home to several universities, law schools and medical schools—most notably Michigan State University. This intellectual environment has nurtured growth in fields like information technology and biotechnology, and has created opportunities for other industries, including government, healthcare and insurance, in the region.  As the sixth largest city in the state, Lansing needs connectivity residents can rely on.  

The growing demand for mobile data creates real challenges to fast, reliable mobile connectivity. The state’s current wireless infrastructure needs an upgrade, and public safety is a primary reason why. Today, 80 percent of emergency calls to police, firefighters and other first responders are initiated on mobile devices. The solution: small cell technology, or “small cells,” which can be used to complement existing wireless infrastructure, such as towers, to add much-needed capacity in these cities. And now that more than 50 percent of households rely exclusively on mobile phones, small cells play an important role in expanding coverage. 

Frequently asked questions.

Who is Crown Castle?

Since 1994, Crown Castle has worked around the country to build and maintain the infrastructure behind the world’s most revolutionary technologies. Our comprehensive portfolio of towers, small cells and fiber gives people and communities access to essential data, technology and wireless service—opening the door to countless opportunities and possibilities.

Why are you installing small cells?

We’re installing a new small cell network that will make your wireless service faster, more dependable and ready for exciting new wireless technologies. A small cell network consists of several small, low-powered antennas that are often attached to new and existing infrastructure in the right of way, such as streetlights and utility poles.

Wireless service has become a necessity in our communities. Communities rely on it for business, education, entertainment, staying connected to friends and family and vital emergency services, like 911. Small cells ensure your community will be ready for the future and that you can stay connected to what matters most.

Can you explain more about the public right of way?

The city of East Lansing’s public right-of-way, adjacent to private property, is owned and managed by the city for the benefit of the public. The city maintains streets and sidewalks in the right-of-way, and also permits public services such as telecommunications, electricity, cable, water and other utilities.

Under federal and state law, telecommunications providers, like Crown Castle, have the right to access public rights-of-way for the construction and operation of telecommunications facilities. Before building in the right of way Crown Castle works with the city to receive the proper permits.

Can you explain how you are a public utility?

Crown Castle Fiber LLC is the regulated public utility subsidiary of Crown Castle Inc., and will be the builder, owner and operator of the proposed network.  Crown Castle Fiber LLC is registered with the Michigan Public Service Commission as a broadband fiber Competitive Access Provider.

Under federal and state law, telecommunications providers like Crown Castle have the right to access public rights-of-way for the construction of telecommunications facilities. Specifically, the Michigan Small Wireless Communications Facilities Deployment Act (Act 365 of 2018) regulates cities and telecommunications providers in the placement of small wireless facilities in the rights-of-way.

Will the small cells be built in my front yard?

No, the small cells will be built in the city’s public right-of-way. While a streetlight or utility pole may be in front of a resident’s home, the poles are in the public right of way, therefore they are not on private property.

How is the small cell network designed and how are specific locations selected cells?

Wireless carriers provide Crown Castle with specific locations based on the carrier’s network coverage and capacity needs.  This ensures that residents have good quality signal power for wireless devices to connect, and stay connected, to the wireless network.  Because consumer wireless demand continues to increase, coverage and capacity enhancements are important for today and future wireless needs.

Experts complete final network designs based on carrier’s network need for coverage and capacity, municipal design guidelines and codes, topography, existing infrastructure and access to fiber and power lines.  Crown Castle submits for city approval designs that conform with city ordinances and guidelines dictating small cell requirements. 

What are the height, weight and volume guidelines for small cells?

Crown Castle must comply with all published guidelines of the city of East Lansing. State law also defines the size and scope of a small cell wireless facility:

"Small cell wireless facility means a wireless facility that meets both of the following requirements:

  • Each antenna is located inside an enclosure of not more than 6 cubic feet in volume or, in the case of an antenna that has exposed elements, the antenna and all of its exposed elements would fit within an imaginary enclosure of not more than 6 cubic feet.
  • All other wireless equipment associated with the facility is cumulatively not more than 25 cubic feet in volume. The following types of associated ancillary equipment are not included in the calculation of equipment volume: electric meters, concealment elements, telecommunications demarcation boxes, grounding equipment, power transfer switches, cut-off switches, and vertical cable runs for the connection of power and other services.”

Federal rules limit the height of any pole installed to a maximum of the greater of (i) 50 feet; or (ii) 10% taller than nearby poles in the right-of-way. Once permitted and constructed, federal law prohibits Crown Castle from substantially increasing the size of the facility without the prior approval of the city.

1 Michigan State, Legislature, Section 460.1307 (j), March 2019.

Why did we receive notice in the newspaper?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations require that all newly proposed small cell locations be announced via a public notice to ensure there will be no significant impact on the environment--this includes various factors, such as the presence of wetlands, floodplains, endangered species and the potential impact on historic properties or tribal areas of significance. This process runs independently but in parallel with the city permitting, so Crown Castle published the required FCC notice for the locations it intends to submit for city permitting.

When would a formal historic impact review be required and what does it entail?

A formal historic review process must be undertaken when a new pole will be placed on private property or in any public right of way that does not currently contain aerial communications utilities or when a small cell will be located in or within 250 feet of a federally-designated historic district or historic property.

The process involves submission of a study performed by a US Secretary of Interior-qualified historian to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  As part of the study, the public notice must be posted in a local newspaper of general circulation seeking comment from the public regarding any potential historic or other environmental impact, as defined in the question above. Public comments regarding historic impact are provided to the SHPO. Local governments and tribes are also contacted for their input.

What is the 30-day timeframe referenced in the regulatory notices?

The 30-day time period is required by FCC regulation.  If, during the 30-day period, any comments are received regarding historic impacts, such comments are forwarded to the SHPO for review.

What other federal regulatory review is done?

All new poles are screened for compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) compliance and in certain cases close to airports, requests for approval are submitted to the FAA.

What happens next for this project?

Crown Castle anticipates submitting applications to the city of East Lansing for permitting  and then begin construction in the middle of the summer or very early fall of 2023 and then to finish all of construction by Spring of 2024.

How do residents see the applications?

Submitted applications may be viewed on the city of East Lansing website. 

Working with the community.

At Crown Castle, we do more than just connect communities with our infrastructure; we connect with our communities. Our Connected by Good program is one way we give and volunteer in the communities where we live and work. 

Where we're installing small cells.

The map above shows proposed areas of activity in Lansing and East Lansing. 

About Crown Castle

Crown Castle owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and approximately 90,000 route miles of fiber supporting small cells and fiber solutions across every major US market. This nationwide portfolio of communications infrastructure connects cities and communities to essential data, technology and wireless service—bringing information, ideas and innovations to the people and businesses that need them.

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