Omnipoint Holdings, Inc. v. City of Cranston
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
586 F.3d 38 (2009)
Omnipoint Holdings, Inc. (Omnipoint) (plaintiff) was a wholly owned subsidiary of T-Mobile USA, Inc., that provided wireless service to customers through a network of antennae mounted on towers or other structures. These antennae, often called wireless facilities, broadcasted signals between other antennae and to the wireless phones and devices of customers. When Omnipoint identified an area in its network in the city of Cranston (the city) (defendant) that had poor signal and was in significant need of coverage, it attempted to remedy the coverage gap with a new facility. In 2003, Omnipoint identified a coverage gap and sought to build a new facility using a 90-foot pole in order to expand coverage and remedy service issues. Omnipoint considered alternative solutions, like using existing towers, and identified three options for a new site. Two site options were unavailable, so Omnipoint entered into an agreement with Solid Rock Church to erect the necessary pole and new facility on Solid Rock Church property. The pole was not in conformance with the city’s zoning ordinances because of its height and proximity to the border of the property. Omnipoint applied for a variance and special-use permit in September of 2005. The city planning commission recommended that the city’s zoning board of review deny Omnipoint’s application because Omnipoint did not demonstrate that existing nearby facilities could not accommodate the necessary service. The zoning board of review (the board) denied Omnipoint’s application, and Omnipoint sued the city and the zoning board in federal district court. Omnipoint alleged that the city and the board violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA) because by refusing to grant Omnipoint’s application, the city effectively prohibited the provision of wireless services. The district court ruled in favor of Omnipoint, finding that the city’s zoning decision prevented Omnipoint from closing a significant gap in coverage. The city appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lynch, C.J.)
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