Mark Hayward's City Matters: Manchester takes on goliath over cell tower
One problem is technical: Its signal strength sucks. So as the wireless carrier tries to promote its whiz-bang 4G-LTE network in Manchester, it has an embarrassing soft spot in one of the city's most heavily traveled and populated areas.
This week, a trial was supposed to start in U.S. District Court pitting AT&T against the city over the tower.
The tower would be visible from Alex Saidel's daughter's bedroom. Like Hines, he worries about radiation, as well as the effect the tower will have on his property values.
AT&T has lots of reasons for the tower.
Weak signal strength encompasses the Mall of New Hampshire, the Manchester airport, neighborhoods along South Mammoth, Island Pond and Bodwell roads. Ditto for about a mile of highway each way from the T-shaped junction of interstates 293 and 93.
"We work very hard in every community we go into," Keyser said. Fifteen alternative sites have been considered, according to information he provided. Owners either refused or the site couldn't provide enough signal strength.
Keyser said the tower is needed because as more people use mobile devices that demand faster speeds, more antennas and towers are needed.
Wireless companies have become like tobacco companies. They run campaigns to encourage us to not text and drive, while boosting signal strength and promoting ubiquitous connectivity.
Kathy Sullivan, another South Mammoth Road resident (and fellow Union Leader columnist) said AT&T and other wireless companies have built their Manchester network piecemeal. They need to develop a comprehensive plan for coverage with Manchester's zoning restrictions in mind.
"I would really like to see Manchester fight for the integrity of its zoning ordinance," Sullivan said.
On its side, AT&T has three lawyers and loads of consultants who put numbers to coverage gaps, signal strength and network demands. And it has the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a federal law that allows companies to override local zoning ordinances if it can prove significant gaps exist and no alternative site is available.
As we demand faster speeds so we can connect anytime, anywhere — whether to play Words with Friends or sext ourselves into news feeds — the demand for wireless will continue to grow. As will the number of towers.
That information, he said, is highly confidential because of the competitive nature of the business.
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