While the era of massive, NASA-sized satellite dishes is long past (unless you’re in a very old building, or have held on to an antique dish out of nostalgia), the advent of smaller apparatus—as well as rooftop cell phone towers—has brought challenges along with the convenience.
Satellite dishes—which, according to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, are legal in co-ops, condos and HOAs—have sprouted on the outside of many residential buildings in recent years, causing aesthetic as well as safety worries from concerned citizens, boards and management companies, and liability issues from insurance companies. The other exterior technology—cell phone towers—which have also popped up—can be a source of revenue for buildings which opt to allow them on their roof spaces—but they can also pose structural threats if not installed and maintained properly.
Calling All Residents
Since the 1980s, cell phone towers have been big business. In the United States, there are currently more than 190,000 cell phone towers; in 1985, there were only about 900, according to Airwave Management LLC. Buildings—including churches—can hide cell towers on their rooftops. Typically, the cell company or wireless service provider negotiates a lease for an installation site, and agrees to service and maintain the tower. The building benefits by receiving the rental income. Given the limited number of suitable buildings, competition between cell phone companies to get into a coveted building can be fierce, with some carriers offering to buy out existing cell tower contracts and pay higher rent just to get a good spot.
“In about the early ‘90s as the use of cell phone technology started to grow, several companies approached condominium buildings and offered them money for placement of a rooftop antenna as a means of boosting their signal,” says Eric M. Glazer, Esq., founding partner of the law firm of Glazer & Associates P.A. in Fort Lauderdale.
The average cost of building a cell phone tower is around $150,000—but it’s worth it. The average yearly cell phone tower lease rate in the US is $45,000. Massachusetts has the highest cell tower lease rates, ranging from $91,000–$535,000 while Florida ranks ninth in the nation, with annual tower lease rates ranging from $20,000 to $310,000.