September 11 2018

Special Meetings to Discuss Proposed 'Small Cell' Wireless Boosters to be Held

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Board of Selectmen is holding a special meeting next week and a subcommittee meeting this Wednesday on a proposed project by Verizon Wireless to install small cell wireless devices on seven telephone poles in town.


According to a representative from 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.


Members of the Board of Selectmen, led by Selectman Jim Tigges who studied the issue, raised some concerns about the plan. First, Tigges said that a map provided by Verizon showing coverage in Burlington seemed to show that there were no current gaps in town. He asked why, if this is the case, were the small cells necessary.


“Where are the gaps?,” he said. “Nobody has identified them to us.”


A sworn affidavit by Radio Frequency Engineer Keith Vellante of C Squared Systems, contracted by Verizon, states that his analysis of the system in town shows areas where wireless coverage needs a boost.


“The proposed facilities are within areas where Verizon Wireless has identified gaps in service and a need to install additional facilities in order to provide reliable wireless service," he wrote. The search area for each proposed facility was determined by the fact that wireless service needs significant improvement in these areas within Burlington. Furthermore, it was determined that the areas served by each facility would interact well with those of existing and planned facilities in the surrounding area."


Still, Tigges claimed the documentation provided by the company lacked specific details.


“The affidavit you keep mentioning says that Verizon Wireless has identified gaps, so  where are they?” he asked.


Tigges also raised concerns about the locations of the proposed small cells. He said that five of the seven are in locations in or near residential neighborhoods and that the devices can be an eyesore. The proposed locations are Wayside Road, Old Concord Road, Cambridge Street at the Mall Road intersection, Mall Road, 15 South Avenue, Winn Street and Center Street at Olympian Way.


More information on each location, as well as the affidavit in question and other supplemental information, can be found here.


Other members of the board raised concerns about the aesthetic of the small cells and also said they were worried that while only seven are being proposed now that Verizon, and other companies, would add more in the future.


“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.”


In the end the board decided that it would be prudent for the town to have a policy on these types of devices. They voted to hold a special meeting on Monday, September 17 at 6 p.m. for further discussion and to give residents and business leaders a chance to weigh in. The board also set up a subcommittee to examine the issue. There will be a subcommittee meeting, also open to the public, on Wednesday, September 12 at 5 p.m. Both meeting will be held in the main hearing room in Town Hall.


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