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Letter: Plan for improving cellphone reception

Published 3:17 pm, Monday, October 14, 2013
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Cellphone communications is a matter of critical public safety. New Canaan's wireless capability is 25 percent vs. 70 percent in Darien and 45 percent in Wilton.

We must be proactive in solving the problem now. Why are we stuck in neutral, debating locations one at a time, year after year, when we should be focused on a town-wide solution?

New Canaan residents expect ubiquitous cell service, but not at the expense of changing the peaceful and quiet surroundings of the town.

The pace of the carriers is too slow. Puddin' Hill and Michigan Road towers are unlikely due to the legitimate objections of neighbors. The West School water tower, armory, transfer station and Silver Hill locations each have problems.

The Connecticut Siting Council may agree that none of these are appropriate locations. Neighbors hate them and tie them up.

There is an obvious technologically suitable alternative to ugly towers enjoyed by demographically and topographically similar communities. It's called DAS (Distributed Antenna System). DAS relies on radio access nodes connected to small antennas set on telephone-size poles to distribute cellphone signals.

DAS has been successful on Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Andover, Mass., providing a continuing source of revenue for those towns.

My plan:

Utilities Commission gets independent technical advice, writes an RFP;

Town Council makes minor changes to zoning ordinances;

The Selectmen issue the RFP for all technologically viable alternatives, including DAS;

We adopt a plan that solves the entire town's needs.

Please focus attention on new technology we control, not economically and environmentally destructive towers.

John Engel

New Canaan