New Verizon Antennas Generate Unwelcome Buzz in Santa Rosa, CA
Press Democrat, 1/12/18:
By Christi Warren, January 12, 2018, 7:41 pm; Original article here
Santa Rosa, CA — A city-sanctioned bid to improve wireless connectivity for internet and cellphone users in Santa Rosa has run into opposition from some residents and generated concern among city officials after the first round of “small-cell” antennas went up on utility poles in recent weeks.
The equipment — including large metal in-ground utility boxes about 5 feet tall — varies greatly in design from anything the city was previously shown by Verizon, the wireless provider installing the antennas, said Eric McHenry, director of Santa Rosa’s Information Technology Department.
While the city had no role in the equipment design, Santa Rosa officials went through a significant amount of back-and-forth with representatives of the wireless carrier on what the units would look like on city-owned streetlights, McHenry said. Officials took pains to make sure the antennas would be as unobtrusive as possible, he said.
“We frankly as a city were also surprised by what these first ones looked like,” he said, referring to the units Verizon is installing on utility poles. “They look nothing like what we had discussed with Verizon for our city streetlights or even the pictures that we shared with the council (of the installations) on wooden poles.”
Judith Monroy, a resident on Link Lane in Santa Rosa’s West End neighborhood, has objected strongly to the installation of a unit about 30 feet from her home, saying only one of her neighbors was notified about the installation and decrying its sudden and unwelcome appearance.
“I’m planning to put this house on the market and the mechanisms on the telephone pole and in the ground are very aggressive and ominous-looking,” said Monroy, 75. “You can’t miss them.”
She’s not the only one who feels that way. In recent days, a neighborhood resident — Monroy said it was not her — scrawled the word “No” in black spray paint on the Verizon units.
“I’m not the only one affected and there were quite a few households that were upset,” she said.
Santa Rosa’s agreement with Verizon, approved in a 7-0 vote by the City Council last year, calls for 72 of the antennas to be installed across the city, a move that came after a 2016 study ranked Santa Rosa fourth worst in the country out of 125 cities for wireless network speed and reliability.
Verizon’s poor data performance was a major factor in the Santa Rosa area being at the bottom — number 122 — in the RootMetrics survey, McHenry said last year, leading the company to reach out to the city. Officials also reached out to AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, but no applications were submitted.
Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said that 30 of the antennas will be mounted on city-owned streetlights and 42 will be placed on utility poles.
So far, the city has issued 38 permits and 15 of the installations are in the construction phase. The work is set to extend through early next year.
“Small cells are next-generation network solutions to really improve service where and when people need to improve service the most,” Flato said.
With so many members of the public owning multiple internet-capable devices — smartphones, tablets, computers — the demand for wireless carriers to provide better service has become more and more necessary, she said.
McHenry said Santa Rosa officials have been in contact with Verizon over the past week, conveying both residents’ complaints and the city’s dismay about the equipment’s design. He said the company has so far been receptive to the input. Fixes could include alternative locations for the equipment, he said.
“The wildfires underscore why us getting this right is so important,” McHenry said. “So many of our residents, including myself … were unable to use their cellphones reliably for a reasonable period, so we have to get strong communications, and we have to get more of these. But they need to be done in a way that is as visually minimal as possible.”
Mr. McHenry, please do your homework before you place quotes that mislead everyone in the Press Democrat: Verizon and other Wireless companies use this false pitch everywhere to stump for these ugly densified 4G/5G so-called “Small Cell” cellphone towers to be installed in residential zones. These are being installed despite no proof of a significant gap in Wireless coverage for Verizon in these neighborhoods. There are many less intrusive options to consider. Also, here is some accurate information about communications during the October 2017 Santa Rosa wildfires:
Cell Coverage Failed in October 2017 California Fires
A. Wireless Industry: 77 Cell Towers Failed in the First Hours of The Oct 2017 Fires in Northern California
From 10/16/17: Piedmont, CA City Council Meeting || 9/30/17: No Significant Gap in Verizon Coverage:
In the first video, above, at a 10/16/17 Piedmont, CA City Council meeting, a Crown Castle/Verizon representative tells the truth on the record.. The Wireless alerts failed to get through. Residents with copper, legacy landline phones received the reverse-911 warnings to evacuate.
Jason Osborne, Crown Castle/Verizon Representative at 0:14 in the first video:
“Good evening Council, my name is Jason Osborne, representing Crown Castle . . . this will be a little emotional for me but I am a resident, a proud resident, of Sonoma County. I live in Petaluma. I have more than ten close friends that I can identify that have lost their homes and one of the biggest things [is that] I’m in Telecom, so I can state that, as a fact, 77 cell sites were burned in the area.
There were over 400 people missing where people couldn’t get a hold of their families, myself included. My Mom lives on Pembrook Avenue, which is less than one block from Coffey Park, which if you’ve remember any of the news that entire subdivision was destroyed. The cell site that was nearby Piner High School went down and I was unable to get a hold of my mother for close to twelve hours until I tried to drive up there myself.
So I just want to go on record and state that since this fire has happened there have been a number of news organizations from PBS to KQED to the National Weather Service that have stated that the networks being down . . . there’s an online article from KQED on October 13 stating that, ‘The communications in the region have been difficult since fire broke out. The National Guard has brought in a satellite cell system to help connect loved ones.’ On October 15, the Sacramento Bee wrote an article titled, ‘Northern California wildfire exposes emergency alert weakness in a cell phone era.’ We have stated a number of times that we understand that people can make calls in the in the beautiful City of Piedmont and there’s no doubt [about that].”
Piedmont, CA Resident at 2:31 in the first video:
The emergency threat keeps being put out there by Crown Castle, but I just want to remind us that if there were fires here, those cell towers would be burned and they would not [work], right? . . . What is the real solution in the event of an emergency? Maybe its more of an endorsement for [legacy, copper, POTS] landlines and keeping these landlines than having more cell phone coverage.
Piedmont, CA Resident at 4:39 in the first video:
“The force-feeding of [cellular data] service to people who are simply exercising their rights to protect their property, their safety and happiness needs to stop”.
B. The Solution is Upgraded Copper and Fiber Optic Wires Safely Buried in the Ground — NOT MORE WIRELESS
Questions Transcribed from From 10/14/17 Santo Rosa Fires Community Meeting Video — Questions That Still Needs Answers
- Facebook Video Part One: Legislators’ Presentations (29:34)
- Facebook Video Part Two: Public Questions and Answers (1:59:22)
My name is Paul and I am from Petaluma, Our city loves Santa Rosa and wants to help you in anyway that we can . . . I have a question for all of us, for Senator Harris and for Governor Brown.
- The first question is, if you need reliable notification for emergency and disasters, why can’t we all retain our landlines that are copper and they are the ones that work in a power outage, because the Wireless Nixle alerts and all of the other Wireless means of communication instantly go down as soon as the fire arrives. Your landlines will continue to work because the [remote power] on these copper lines still operates [during a disaster].
- I have a question for Kamala Harris: will you help us to report AT&T for price gouging on those landline services that prevents people from keeping this very import emergency service. As a carrier of last resort, AT&T must provide these landlines to everyone who wants one [and do so at an affordable price]. It’s the 175% price increase over eight years that pushes people away.
[APPLAUSE](Note: actually, as you can read here the price of the basic AT&T California state utility phone service went up 138% from 2008-2016 and ancillary services went up 60%-525%).
- And finally for Governor Brown, you have legislation on your desk right now that is a fire hazard. If SB.649 [Wireless Tools of Commerce] gets signed by Governor Brown, it would place at residents’ doorsteps — right next to every utility pole in every residential neighborhood — a refrigerator-sized 35-cubic foot ancillary equipment cabinet which will contain lithium ion batteries as backup [power for the cell phone antennas to be installed on these utility poles] or possibly propane or diesel generators. These will explode in any fire.
What I am suggesting is that, as we rebuild, we put all of this infrastructure underground to make it safe for everybody in residential neighborhoods [for any future fire or earthquake and we do not install the unnecessary, fragile and not-dependable-in-a-disaster, so-called “Small Cell” cell towers in front of homes in residential neighborhoods. We would be better served by undergrounded Wireline fiber-optic internet to every home — the fastest, highest-bandwidth, most reliable, most secure and most energy-efficient way to close the Digital Divide.]