Winter Park Residents Oppose Small Cells For the Holidays

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On Monday, Winter Park (FL) commissioners reviewed a pitch by ExteNet to upgrade the city’s AT&T network to 5G. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the ExteNet plan includes installing 20 small cells throughout the city. Commissioners will consider a formal agreement with ExteNet in January 2021. If approved, the telecom can then file for small cell permits.

According to the Sentinel, several telcos have approached the city regarding small cells due to its “strong pedestrian environment,” but officials had concerns. According to Commissioner Todd Weaver, officials have received letters from citizens regarding small cell aesthetics “affecting Winter Park’s charm,” and health concerns due to radiofrequency emissions.  

During Monday’s meeting, Vice Mayor Carolyn Cooper noted that looks matter, considering the city already spent millions to bury power lines. She added, “There are a lot of things in the right of way, and we’re spending an absolute fortune to remove clutter from our right-of-way.”

City attorney Lance King reminded commissioners of the federal and state laws around regulating communications equipment. “What we’re not allowed to do is to keep them out of the right-of-way, period,” said King.

Eric Lovvorn, external relations director for ExteNet, said the small cell design standards would mimic the city’s existing fluted black metal poles. The Sentinel reported that ExteNet would determine node placement based on where to attain the best connectivity.

Regarding resident concerns, Lovvorn addressed the commissioners. “There are lots of people out there that want to stir up trouble and make all kinds of wild accusations on social media forums, saying how small cell wireless is going to give cancer or cause two-headed babies,” he said, “but the bottom line is the federal government has very strict regulations that are always being reviewed and revised, and we follow each and every one of them.”

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