Surf City Holds Off Verizon Deal Until Company Addresses Concerns

Nov 15, 2017

The Surf City Borough Council unanimously tabled a resolution at its monthly meeting last week that would have granted Verizon Wireless its official permission to place network nodes, or radio boxes, in town to improve connectivity for mobile users. The decision came after the wireless giant failed to address concerns officials have with 17 troublesome telephone poles in town.

“We have not heard from Verizon regarding these poles,” Mayor Francis Hodgson told representative Bill Flanagan, a representative for Tilson Technology who is handling the project for Verizon Wireless. He was standing in for project leader Larry Morgan Nov. 8. “We’re up to 17 problem poles in town.”

Hodgson noted borough officials and Verizon have been in discussion for months about the nodes and the poles.

“It’s my understanding,” Flanagan said, “they’re going to be removed and they are starting to do it.”

But Hodgson reiterated he hasn’t heard from Verizon, and he was getting annoyed with the lack of response from the company. David Weissmann, public relations manager for Verizon’s North East Market, acknowledged the council had expressed concerns about specific telephone poles.

“We are working to address those concerns,” he said when contacted about the council’s decision to table the resolution, noting it was the level of detail he had regarding the company’s work to tackle the concerns.

There are four areas in town with double poles, at least two poles that have been red tagged, which means they are ready for removal, and eight poles that are leaning. That doesn’t include the poles’ low trunk lines, or dangling lines.

“We have to put a cop there until someone shows up to address it,” Hodgson said, describing what occurs when there is a pole with dangling lines. “We’re going to charge the company.”

In August, borough officials agreed to move ahead with Verizon’s proposal to improve connectivity for mobile users. The decision was two months in the making since Verizon first asked to be allowed to place the network nodes in both residential and commercial zones. In the end, the council gave approval for the nodes to be placed only along Long Beach Boulevard and Central Avenue.

Most of the nodes will be located on the east side of the Boulevard, with a few exceptions, according to the proposal the council accepted in August. If there is no space on the poles Verizon Wireless has earmarked for placement, then it won’t be used, Morgan has said.

“It won’t resolve the connectivity issues in the residential zones,” Morgan had 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 had 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.

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 for that town.

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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