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PUC Commissioners relay good news on cell towers

South Dakota's Public Utilities Commissioners welcomed news of a Federal Communications Commission decision made yesterday that clears the way for several new cellular phone towers to be erected in the state. The FCC's ruling clarifies provisions of the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement.

 "NPA is the review process for proposed communications towers on properties which have religious or cultural significance," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "It requires a tower applicant to provide sufficient response time for an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization.

Interpretation of this agreement at the FCC had stopped the approval process of several cell towers which were planned to be erected this year in South Dakota as well as in other states."

"I am delighted that the FCC did the right thing and that this decision is now behind us," said PUC Vice Chairman Bob Sahr. "Given that winter and frozen ground will be in South Dakota soon, this hold-up was causing great concern for consumers throughout the state, Alltel Wireless (formerly Western Wireless/Cellular One) and Verizon Wireless. We have been hearing almost daily from cellular customers concerned about these construction delays."

"We understand that approximately 20 cell towers in South Dakota will now be under construction, according to our contacts at two of the largest cellular providers in our state," said PUC Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "Just how quickly these new towers will be erected, tested, adjusted and then put into service is not known, since the entire process is so weather-dependent."

 Regardless of these concerns, the FCC decision clears up a backlog of tower approvals that has frustrated consumers, cellular companies, and the commissioners.

 More details on the FCC's decision on the NPA can be found on the Web at