LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles City Council Friday moved to require future freestanding cell phone towers to be built to the same seismic protection standards as public safety buildings.

Under current regulations, cell towers in the city are built to a lesser standard. They’re expected to remain standing after a major quake, but not necessarily usable.

The new rules do not apply to existing cell towers in the city.

The ordinance, approved 11-0, still needs to return for another vote by the council. If approved on second reading, the mayor must sign the measure before it becomes law.

Breakdowns in cellular service after an earthquake could delay emergency response time, and since Los Angeles’s last major earthquake in 1994, the Internet and cellular communications has become an “integral part of our society,” officials said in a city report.

“Communications are paramount when the next disaster strikes and we know it’s not if, it’s when,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield told his colleagues before Friday’s vote.

“Our communications safety facilities are just as important as our public safety facilities,” he said. “In the event of a disaster, they are our public safety facilities.”

Blumenfield added the increased cost of building towers to the new standards should be “marginal.”

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