Town Freaks at Mobilitie Tower Siting Plan, Finds It “Offensive”

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UPDATE  Last week Inside Towers reported on the announcement by the Connecticut Siting Council that Mobilite planned to build out a network state-wide on publicly owned land in over 100 municipalities.  Having now gotten that message, some towns like Chesire are pushing back.

A letter from Mobilitie to officials in Cheshire, CT asking about who to speak with about tower siting so unnerved one official he called it “offensive.” Mobilitie told Town Manager Mike Milone it intended to site structures in public rights-of-way according to the Hartford Courant.

Specifically, Mobilitie wants to deploy hybrid data-specific cell towers in a network expansion designed to improve connectivity, reports the Hartford Courant. The California company proposed deployment of 120-foot “micro-cell utility poles.”

Simsbury Director of Public Works Thomas Roy says the poles would be for data, not voice, communication. He believes Mobilitie is trying to get around the cellular tower siting process. 

In a letter to town officials, Roy states: “[T]hey believe that these towers are utility poles and can therefore be placed in the town’s [right-of-way]. These towers are not telephone poles and will be made of steel with a height of 120’ and a base diameter of 40’.”

But he also points out the town doesn’t oppose cell communications; the town wants to protect “everybody’s property” and make sure there’s no “unsightly infrastructure.”

While the poles Mobilitie are proposing are to be treated like utilities and wouldn’t be subject to local or state authority, they would fall under the jurisdiction of the Connecticut Siting Council. “Telecommunications companies do not enjoy eminent domain power in the state,” council Executive Director Melanie Bachman told Mobilitie in a letter.

In a statement, Mobilitie CEO Gary Jabara told the Courant: “Small cells are the future for communities that seek non-obtrusive and concealed ways to increase coverage and capacity for citizens. Our goal is to help bring greater wireless connectivity to cities in order to deliver a better mobile experience to citizens, help communities bridge the digital divide and enable technology-driven economic growth opportunities.”

The advocacy group Connecticut Conference of Municipalities says it too, is not opposed to tower siting, but there should be a clear process so town officials and the public can weigh-in. Several Connecticut towns have received similar letters from Mobilitie. A meeting between Mobilitie, CCM, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) and the Office of Consumer Counsel is planned for September 28 to discuss the tower siting application approval process.

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