Beach Town Holds its Ground on Small Cells

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UPDATE  As AT&T and Verizon work to build their respective small cell networks in Rehoboth Beach, DE, city officials grapple with maintaining the charm of their beach community.

Over the past year, AT&T completed the installation of five micro cells and is currently planning to complete two more. Location and aesthetics are proving to be sticky for these officials particularly since the FCC’s Wireless Infrastructure Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order limited local authority over location of new towers or antennas.

According to the Cape Gazette, the city approved AT&T’s application to install a micro cell at the Boardwalk end of Stockley Street and one on the southeast corner of the Bayard Avenue and Hickman Street intersection. Although both locations have 40’ wooden utility poles that could accommodate small cell attachments, the existing pole at the Stockley site provides primary power and is not an option for co-locating small cell equipment.  

Although AT&T initially proposed installing a micro cell in the middle of the block on Stockley, City Public Works Director Kevin Williams said a new 40-foot-tall wooden pole will be installed between the last utility pole and the boardwalk.

“This looks a lot better from an aesthetic perspective,” said Mayor Paul Kuhns.

Opposing the decision, Heather Metz, a member of Rehoboth’s environmental committee, expressed concerns for public health and safety due to the “unknowns with how the radio frequencies of these stronger antennas are going to affect people.”

“This location only serves the residential area, where homeowners already have access to high-speed internet in their homes and adequate cell phone coverage,” said Metz. “The beach and commercial areas will not be served by this location.”

Commissioner Lisa Schlosser also challenged the Stockley site and suggested utilizing a light pole. “Just to have two poles side-by-side like that doesn’t seem to meet our aesthetic standards,” she said.

Rehoboth is not new to wireless telecom in their market and city officials work hard to stand their ground on the locations of wireless installations. The Cape Gazette reported the city approved Verizon’s request in October to co-locate antennas on the downtown water tower. Verizon also plans to install 18 small cells on boardwalk light poles this summer, but the city requested Verizon replace all of the light poles on the boardwalk as part of the deal. Verizon has yet to respond.

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