Company Wants to Install New Cell Towers In Over 100 Connecticut Towns
NBC 30 Connecticut, Tuesday, August 23
By Max Reiss
A California-based cell tower company has sent shockwaves through local government in the past several weeks. Mobilitie, which is based in Newport, California, builds cell towers and then partners with all major cell carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.
The company sent letters last month to more than 100 cities and towns, essentially informing them of their plans to build new data-specific towers in precise locations on either municipal or state land. "It came as a shock," said Thomas Roy, the director of public works for the town of Simsbury.
The letter, dated July 25, explained that Mobilitie was a publicly regulated utility and it had a right to build 120-foot-tall, and four-feet-wide towers in the interest of improving cellular service in the region.
Roy said he was skeptical when he read the details. "With this letter, it looks like they simply picked a spot and decided this is where it's going to go without any community involvement," Roy said. The tower location in Simsbury would be on a busy intersection that backs up to an apartment complex.
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The same letter with similar plans but different locations was sent to more than 100 cities and towns.
The company has also established a map of sites where it desires to install towers along Connecticut Department of Transportation managed roads and bridges.
Currently, the town of Greenwich is looking for a summary judgment from the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority regarding what the company can do within the town’s limits.
In a statement, the CEO of Mobilite, Gary Jabara, said: "Small cells are the future for communities that seek non-obtrusive and concealed ways to increase coverage and capacity for citizens. Small cell deployment is essential for the Internet of Things and 5G. They are the future! Our goal is to help bring greater wireless connectivity to cities in order to deliver a better mobile experience to citizens, help communities bridge the digital divide and enable technology-driven economic growth opportunities."
Melanie Bachman with the Connecticut Siting Council that handles the regulations relating to cellular towers, said there is still a long way to go before any tower is installed on city, town or state property. "It would definitely be subject to state regulations," Our jurisdiction includes public service companies, telecommunication companies." Bachman said the letters individual towns received, while helpful in starting dialogues, fall short of mandatory requirements spelled out in Connecticut law. "The correspondence doesn’t replace meeting with the chief elected official, they also have to bring what’s known as a technical report to show the justification for the tower in that location and they should ask the city or town for alternate locations," Bachman said.
According to the company’s website, Mobilitie has worked with professional sports teams on improving their fiber and wireless internet connections intended to improve fan experiences.
Tom Roy, of Simsbury, said he and other town officials are in favor of improved infrastructure particularly for cell phones. The town already has several towers in town for communications, each of which went through a rigorous public process. "We all use cell phones, we all rely on our cell phones for both voice and data," Roy said. "I think we have a very involved group of residents in town that would not be happy to hear that they are circumventing a local process."
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