Developer Whistles “Stop” to Union Pacific


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Objecting to communications poles spotted along the Glen Canyon, CO right-of-way, a local developer has issued a complaint, reports the Post Independent. The developer, Canyon Summit, alleges that Union Pacific overstepped its authority and its cell towers indicate an attempt to establish a competing network. The railroad, in return, has stated that it’s operating within its jurisdiction.

Having lodged the complaint, Canyon Summit noted that it’s been working with the Forest Service to bring connectivity to the protected Hanging Lake area. The developer says the railroad’s cell tower antennas violate its exclusive agreement for the region. The complaint accuses Union Pacific of setting up the poles, not for the sole benefit of railroad services and employees, but to lay the groundwork to offer commercial service along the rail line.  

Using a drone to survey the structures along the tracks, RF engineer Steve Sanders advised Canyon Summit that he identified 13 DAS nodes along the route. Canyon Summit asserts this is further proof that a distributed antenna system is under construction and claims that it believes SBA Communications may be working with Union Pacific to share its pole and offer wireless services along the train’s right-of-way paths. SBA offered no comment to the Post Independent.

The complaint letter accuses Union Pacific of, “Overburdening the canyon with unsightly towers and related wireless network infrastructure,” which is “in conflict with the environmental ideals that underpin the overall management and stewardship of the corridor.” A Union Pacific representative said the “unsightly towers” are part of its PTC (Positive Train Control) system, an allowable use of its authority. However, the representative did note that some poles did support commercial antennas but stressed that “no additional sites have been constructed nor are any currently planned specifically for that purpose.”

Forest Service spokesperson, Scott Fitzwilliams, has found himself stuck in the middle of the conflict and has said, “We don’t deal with the railroad right-of-way. Some think that I should, but I am going to stay in my lane.” The Forestry Service could be an ally for either faction if it chooses to weigh in. It did bar competitors from moving into territory already under contract with Canyon Summit. On the flip side, Fitzwilliams has also commented that outreach has been slow and many people in the area are still waiting to get connected.

All players have expressed varying levels of frustration with costs, time delays, competition, and adherence to state, local, National Park Service, and railroad rules. While the parties jostle with legal wrangling and each other, connectivity remains on hold, according to the Post Independent

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