September 19 2018

Committee Formed to Study Small Cell Wireless Devices

By: Rich Hosford

A new committee will be tasked with studying an emerging wireless booster technology and creating policy suggestions town leaders will later consider.


The committee was announced at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting by Selectman Jim Tigges. It will include members from multiple town departments, the police and fire departments and Town Meeting.


The committee was formed after Verizon Wireless put in a grant of location application for seven small cell wireless devices on telephone poles in town.


According to Daniel Klasnick of Duval, Klasnick & Thompson LLC, a representative of Verizon who was at the selectmen meeting last month, and documentation Verizon has posted online, the small cells are necessary to cover gaps in wireless coverage that develop as more people and businesses use the system. The devices are placed on telephone poles, street lamps and similar structures to boost the signal put out by traditional cell towers.


During a meeting in August, Klasnick was before the board with the proposal. At the time members raised a number of concerns about the project. They asked if the small cells were really necessary, since Verizon’s coverage map did not show any gaps of coverage. They also asked about the chance that in the future Verizon would seek to put more small cells up in town or that other companies would seek to put others up.


The number of unanswered questions prompted a special meeting on Monday to discuss the issue in further detail. During that meeting it was decided there were enough unanswered questions to require the committee.


“The goal of the committee is to create a policy to address the issues of small cells,” Tigges, who has taken the lead on the subject, said. “Small cells are becoming an issue nationwide.”


One concern, expressed at length during last month’s meeting, is the aesthetics of the devices. Members of the board expressed concern that they would clog up telephone poles in residential areas. If the practice grew, and more companies started putting them up, they said they feared they will become an eyesore.


“I certainly wouldn’t want one of these in front of my house,” Selectman Mike Runyan said. “I would assume that Sprint or someone else may come along and put another one on that same existing pole. Maybe a third or fourth at some point.”


During the meeting on Monday other concerns were raised. Board of Health member Elizabeth Walendziewicz, who will be on the new committee, asked a number of questions about the health effects of the devices. These include what radio frequency exposure residents, an animals, will get from the small cells and what long-term impact that could have.


As for the proposal from Verizon Wireless the public hearing was continued until October 22. The first meeting of the Small Cell Committee has not yet been scheduled but should take place in early October for anyone interested in attending.


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