Amazon’s Coming to Virginia and So Are Small Cells


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After a years’ worth of discussions, the Arlington County Board recently approved an ordinance change allowing wireless carriers to install small cell technology on public property. Paving the way for 5G, the antennas will be installed on light poles throughout the county with 75 permits on private property already approved, reported ARL Now.

Vendors that want to install the small cells will cover the $9,000 bill for the tech and the new pole, but Arlington County will retain ownership of the pole. 

Vendors will also have to sign a 10-year agreement with the county, with the option of a five-year extension. Arlington will require them to pay a one-time $250 administrative fee to the state, an annual $270 fee to the county, and cover any utility costs, according to ARL Now.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey is excited for the enhancement of emergency services and telehealth medicine, among other new possibilities. “To me, it’s those kinds of things that make it worth our pursuing this,” he said. “Not for the faster speeds on our smartphone.” 

Some residents expressed concerns over potential health impacts via small cells, saying, “We’re all basically guinea pigs.” According to Nate Wentland, the county’s chief business technology officer, “This is something that we have our eyes wide open about. We want to measure the impact.”

Board Member Erik Gutshall said if new evidence arises demonstrating adverse health effects from the technology, the county, “has the opportunity to protect ourselves and terminate [the license] with the public interest.” Per the county’s listening agreement with carriers, independent radiation emission testing is required 60 days post-installation of each pole and allows the county to request additional testing any time afterward. 

County Manager Mark Schwartz told residents the data from these tests would be shared publicly. “We are becoming a center for innovation and high technology with the advent of… Amazon coming here,” said Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “We need that capacity and residents here expect the highest quality of wireless services,” added Adelstein, who lives in the area. “I think it adds to property values here.”

July 23, 2019

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