On a summer day in 1996, Al Larson, the mayor of Schaumburg, Ill., stopped by his local post office and was shocked to find a 100-foot tower looming overhead. "It literally went up over the weekend," he recalls. Neither the U.S. Post Office nor UniSite, its contractor, had received a permit for the tower, designed to hold antennae for wireless service providers. They said they didn't need one. Under a little-known provision in the Telecommunication Act of 1996, all federal land is fair game.
Two years ago, as battles raged over indecency standards and deregulation, little attention was paid to the act's Section 704, which prevents state and local governments from barring the construction of wireless facilities on federal property.