COWs Providing the “Meat” of Service for Commuters Stuck in Traffic


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Renton, WA is seeing a rise in data usage with carriers citing drivers stuck in traffic as the cause and more temporary towers as the solution, reported the Renton Reporter. Now, the city is drafting an ordinance to address the aesthetics and permitting of the temporary facilities, mainly cells-on-wheels (COWs).

According to city Associate Planner Alex Morganroth, GPS and Spotify are examples of applications increasing data usage. 

Renton sits between four major state routes, in a high-traffic area, which contributes to the data surge.

Regarding the use of COWs, Morganroth said, “We’ve seen an increase in them [carriers] applying for these temporary facilities as a holdover until they get permanent facilities online. Instead of being used for special events and big crowds of people, they’re [COWs] now being deployed more as a stop-gap measure.”

The city previously had no codes for COWs, but now the Community and Economic Development staff are devising a new one focusing on aesthetic impacts and noise limits, Morganroth said. The code will also outline a permitted length of 120 days, with a one-time extension of 60 days, according to the Reporter.

Federal Communications Commission standards control rules around cell towers, so compliance is questionable. “It’s hard to say; the FCC overrides a lot of our stuff. We’re just trying to hopefully give [providers] a little push to at least get [COWs] off the site quicker,” Morganroth said. “We don’t want to have these things on there for two to four years because they can’t get a permanent site.”

August 27, 2019   

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