Community Issues

Cell Phone Towers and Antennae

With the increased dependence on Cell phones and wireless Internet access, there is a need for better coverage. It is no longer acceptable for one to have to "just wait until I get to a place with better coverage" in order to continue a conversation. In a sense, the carriers, AT&T, Verizon, etc., have an obligation to provide good service everywhere. Many who fight against the installation of a specific cell tower do not understand the technology used. It's called "cell" because the basic layout is made up of adjacent hexagons, like the cells of a bee-hive, with an antenna at each alternate corner. (That's why the antennae on a tower are usually pointed in 3 directions.) The system only works if the antennas are properly spaced out to cover the area. The maximum distances are limited by technical criteria, not aesthetics. Thus, an antenna can't simply be moved a mile away to a less obtrusive location.

The other issue is height. While many argue that they should be lower, this simply detracts from their efficiency and range. The result is that more towers are needed to cover the same area - i.e., placing antennae at the other corners of the cells or making smaller cells. The fact is that the County Code requires that any new tower built must allow space for 2 additional antenna systems, typically each spaced 10 feet apart below the original, top one.

Part of the problem with an excessive number of towers was caused by the idiotic government policy of some years ago which was based on a belief that the market could support 8 or more individual cell phone companies, with each needing to install antennae to cover the entire area. It should have been clear to any economist that the market cannot support more than 3, and more likely only 2. With mergers, we are quickly working downwards toward 2.

(The same government idiocy is trying to cram multiple land-line telephone and electricity providers down our throats, whether we want them or not. Click here to see what's happening because of this stupidty!)

Another common argument used by opponents when a tower is proposed near a school is that the radiation will harm the children. These are usually kids who walk around with a cell phone all the time anyway. The fact is, they get more radiation from their own phone than they do from the tower. Actually, they will probably get less radiation when the tower is close by. This is because the modern cell phone detects how strong the signal is from the tower, and then turns down its own transmitted power accordingly, to save the battery. That's why your battery runs down faster when you're out in the boonies away from a tower. In addition, the higher the tower, the less radiation exists at ground level near the tower, since it transmits in a rather narrow beam vertically.

It's obvious why property owners would allow an antenna on their property. The carriers are paying about $1,000 a month rent just for an antenna, and more for a tower.

There are some innovative ways to disguise cell towers, and some really dumb looking ones. The one dressed up like a tree on Highway 152 in Fallston is really out of place in an open field. The so-called "flagpole" antenna shown on the left (on Honeygo Blvd) looks more like a factory smoke-stack without its factory.

Recently, a new cell antenna went up along Sunshine Ave. What do you think of the result?

Some members of the community insisted that the antenna be "camouflaged" in this (huge) faux-silo. Really sticks out like a sore thumb, doesn't it?
This is what a "normal" cell tower would have looked like. It would have been hard to see from Sunshine Ave because of all the ugly power poles along both sides of Sunshine. Where is all the coummunity outrage over those?

The Past

Back in 1922, some people had a vision of what the future of radio would bring. Not all were pleased. (Click on picture for larger copy.)

The Future

The "newest" cell service will be "5G". It promises to bring incredible data rates via cell service (thus, pushing Verizon's abandonment of plans to provide FIOS county-wide). 5G will entail lots of cell antennae, small ones placed on existing utility poles and buildings. Thus, there will not be so much reliance on big cell towers, but many more small ones cluttering the roadsides. As usual, the County is behind the eight-ball on revising its regulations for the installation of these antennae. I wrote to the Council members imploring them to look into this, but have gotten no response.

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Updated 3 Feb 2019 by MAP