Costa Rican court rules municipalities must allow cell tower construction

November 21, 2011

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) announced Monday that municipalities can no longer block the construction of telecommunication towers. The court ruled that because the Costa Rican government approved the construction of the towers, municipal governments are not authorized to obstruct the process.

“The Costa Rican government committed, before International Public Law, that they would be responsible for the construction of the telecommunications infrastructure,” the court ruling said. “Consequently, the municipalities of the country cannot establish regulations and asymmetric requirements that impede normalized and uniform infrastructure.”

Dozens of telecommunications towers and antennas have been constructed this year throughout Costa Rica. The majority of the towers are being built by telecommunications market entrants Claro and Telefónica, whom began offering national cell phone coverage earlier this month.

Residents throughout the country were outraged when they learned the 30-meter to 60-meter high towers would be constructed in close proximity to their homes or residential neighborhoods. Many residents filed complaints to their municipalities, citing potential health risks and environmental damage as a result of the towers, which resulted in temporary suspensions of construction in several districts. As of August, only 44 of 81 municipalities had approved cell-tower construction.  

“The Sala IV took into consideration the societal demands of information and knowledge provided by the new technologies that accompany the infrastructure,” the court ruling said. “The telecommunications towers are key and strategic to provide better service options and universal access to technological advances.”

The ruling stated municipalities are not authorized to “interfere with public and national interest.”

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