Can You Hear Me? Verizon Wireless to Upgrade Technology in Surf City

Aug 16, 2017

Surf City borough officials are moving ahead with a proposal by Verizon Wireless to improve connectivity for mobile users, but with a catch. The network nodes, or radio boxes, will be installed only in the commercial zone. The wireless giant agreed to the stipulation but with a request for future reconsideration of placing the nodes in the residential zones.

The council’s unanimous decision came Aug. 9, more than two months after Verizon Wireless representatives began attending council meetings in an effort to get officials to act. After a lot of debate about why the nodes needed to be included in the residential zone, Verizon Wireless came back with a new proposal that excludes that section of the seaside community.

Under the new proposal, seven mini-antennas will be installed on utility poles on Long Beach Boulevard and Central Avenue. Most of the nodes will be located on the east side of the Boulevard, with a few exceptions. If there is no space on the poles Verizon Wireless has earmarked for placement, then it won’t be used, said Larry Morgan, a representative for Tilson Technology who is handling the project for Verizon Wireless.

“It won’t resolve the connectivity issues in the residential zones,” Morgan noted of the revamped proposal.

The nodes, about 2 feet in height, are small cell, low-frequency radio signals that work like a Wi-Fi hotspot, Morgan told the council. The antennas are typically mounted on street lights or utility poles, to bring wireless signals into areas that need better coverage or more capacity for customers, he said.

More people are using more wireless devices to do more things in more places, Morgan said. The demand for wireless data services has nearly doubled over the last year, and is expected to grow 650 percent between 2013 and 2018, according to a July 2017 statement Verizon Wireless released regarding the Surf City proposal.

Before agreeing to move ahead with the proposal, borough officials wanted assurance that Verizon would clean up utility poles with hanging wires, among other issues. Mayor Francis Hodgson brought the issue to the table first, saying there’s an electric pole that still has wires dangling from it and nothing has been done to clean it up.

“There’s hanging wires dripping off of it,” the mayor said. “You’re not taking care of what is here. That’s what you are up against.”

Morgan said those poles belong to Verizon’s landline division, and he would take the concerns to the appropriate individuals.

Councilman James B. Russell’s concern was over the likelihood of a transformer fire with the addition of the radio boxes, something that has been seen from time to time on the Island.

“It’s relatively low,” Morgan said, noting he didn’t have a lot of experience with that issue, but overall, reception from communities with the radio boxes has been positive.

The next step is for the borough attorney to draft a resolution allowing Verizon Wireless to place the radio boxes on utility poles in the rights-of-way. Morgan said Verizon also has agreements with Barnegat Light, Beach Haven and Harvey Cedars to place network nodes in those communities.

Barnegat Light passed a resolution earlier this year allowing Verizon Wireless access to the borough’s rights-of-way to install small nodes on the existing utility poles to increase signal strength, said Brenda Kuhn, acting administrator/clerk.

In May, Ship Bottom moved to protect the gateway community from such requests by unanimously amending an ordinance that establishes zoning regulations for wireless communications, facilities and equipment. The measure covers the areas inside and outside of borough rights of way, while redefining that term, as well as dead spots, antennae and facilities among many others.

— Gina G. Scala

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