Wireless Upgrades on Hold in Surf City

Jul 19, 2017

For the second time this summer, the Surf City Borough Council tabled a request by Verizon Wireless to place network nodes on utility poles throughout the borough. The main point of contention for officials is the wireless giant’s unwavering position that the mini-antennas must be placed in residential zones to be effective.

The nodes, about 2 feet in height, are small cell, low-frequency radio signals that work like a Wi-Fi hotspot, according to David Weissmann, public relations manager for Verizon’s North East Market.

More people are using more wireless devices to do more things in more places, Verizon said in a statement. 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 the statement.

“We’re working to stay ahead of that growth with more, low-powered antennas closer to where people need to connect,” Verizon said in its statement.

The wireless giant’s statement made no reference to the council’s concerns about new construction, or the rebuilding of existing homes where homeowners decide they want to bury wires underground. The network nodes cannot be buried.

Mayor Francis Hodgson said he has no problem with placing network nodes in the commercial zone, but the residential areas are a whole other discussion.

“Our town is so narrow. Why not just the commercial zone?” the mayor asked.

Verizon representatives at the July 12 council meeting in Surf City argued the technology won’t reach homeowners, or summer visitors if the nodes are placed only in the business district.

“These 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, including first responders who rely on our services to communicate,” Verizon said in its statement.

The council chose not to move forward with the request, which currently projects 17 network nodes to be placed on utility poles throughout town, after Councilman William Hodgson noted he wanted to speak with other towns.

Larry Morgan, a Verizon representative who attended the July 12 council meeting, said he already had agreements with Barnegat Light, Beach Haven and Harvey Cedars to place network nodes in those communities.

In May, the Ship Bottom Borough Council moved to protect the gateway community from such requests by unanimously amending an ordinance that established zoning regulations for wireless communication 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.

Redefining dead spots was important because companies are supplementing these zones with newer technology. And although the new technology is smaller, it is popping up on utility poles, and in some cases large towers are built without requiring a municipality’s permission, Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsenbeck has said.

“We’re not opposed to technology,” Huelsenbeck said prior to the May 23 vote. “We’re just protecting the town.”

The purpose of adding a new chapter to regulate wireless communication facilities is to protect residential areas and land uses from possible adverse impacts as well as to promote and make certain suitable locations for these facilities take into consideration public health, welfare, and safety, according to the ordinance.

The Verizon request in Surf City is expected to be discussed at the Aug. 8 borough council meeting.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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