A Tower for Monterey: “A Matter of Life or Death”

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Monterey, MA has been attracting artists and urban refugees since the early 1800’s and is home to some of the most splendid resources in all of Berkshire county. In the 21st century, however, Monterey is fighting for a different resource to sustain its economic development – cellular service. With only one carrier, AT&T, on a single tower since 2010, a near decade-long fight to bring service to an estimated 961 residents of Monterey will soon come to an end for most of the town.

Vertex Towers LLC, a Massachusetts telecommunications infrastructure developer, has agreed to build a new tower on land owned by Camp Hume with the condition of a commitment from a phone carrier. That commitment comes in the form of a Christmas gift from AT&T as the carrier anticipates installing its equipment just in time for the holiday.  

While local police and residents are rejoicing, the addition of AT&T’s equipment only solves a fraction of the resource issues that Monterey currently faces in terms of cellular coverage. According to The Berkshire Eagle, as many as two-thirds of the town’s residents are Verizon Wireless customers.

Although Verizon representatives told local and state officials that the company will place equipment on the town’s towers in 2020, local lawmakers stress the need for this to happen sooner than next year. Citing safety concerns for its aging population and law enforcement, Select Board member Steven Weiss said, “It is — without hyperbole — a matter of life or death.”

“We did what Verizon wanted, through blood, sweat and tears,” Weiss said, referring to Verizon’s requirement that a cell tower be installed before it would commit to adding its equipment. “Now, we’re going to demand it.”

“It’s not as safe for officers,” stated Backhaus, “who then have to get out of their cruisers to do license and registration checks on drivers traveling the east/west corridor on back roads, and on some who could be dangerous.”

Getting Verizon to bring in their service is a priority for Monterey and local and state officials say they plan to increase pressure on the company. “The fact that Western Massachusetts still has to fight for basic services that the entire world benefits from seems incredible to me,” said Weiss.

December 3, 2019

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