During last week’s Southampton (NY) Town Board work session, a new tower was discussed to fill gaps in South Fork, reported the Southampton Press. Keith Kito of SBA Communications noted that while other areas of Long Island experience cellular strife due to bandwidth capacity strained by an increase in demand, South Fork is suffering from gaps in coverage and dead zones due to a lack of cell towers.
According to Janice Scherer, the town planning and development administrator, SBA has a contract with the town that dates back to the 1990s. SBA is working with the town to find suitable sites for additional towers, especially as more residents are working and learning from home due to the pandemic.
According to Kito, carriers usually spend between $750,000 and $1 million per site to install their equipment, but they’re at the ready for South Fork. “It’s not an issue out here; the demand is through the roof,” he added.
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman noted that the town is getting the better deal in the tower matter. It typically costs SBA $500,000 to construct a monopole, reported the Press. Under the current agreement, the town is only responsible for $125,000 of the total costs. “It’s a good deal…because the cost of land has gone up,” Schneiderman noted.
Schneiderman continued that SBA covers the construction costs, and the town covers its share of the fees from initial revenue. Once the company recoups construction costs, it shares revenue 50/50 with the town. The terms are not unfavorable, Schneiderman concluded.
Some council members questioned the reach of the proposed monopole. Kito estimated a new tower would improve service for up to two miles. He noted that carriers ask for poles to be placed closer together, “especially on Long Island,” to satisfy demand.
Due to previous “tower battles,” Councilman John Bouvier said, “I think we’re all a little wounded.” However, Schneiderman countered that there’d been an outcry since the onset of COVID-19 for cell service.
Wealthy Manhattan residents who fled East to escape the pandemic can’t understand how they pay $100,000 in taxes and don’t have basic infrastructure, the supervisor asserted. According to the Press, he wondered whether SBA could erect a temporary tower to give the public a taste of aesthetics along with improved service.
There’s a “chicken and the egg” conundrum to solve, Scherer explained. The public may want to see a visual representation of what the monopole might look like, but SBA is reluctant to invest before securing a lease.
Schneiderman suggested moving forward with the visual simulation work and making the lease of the land contingent upon community support. If the community doesn’t support the plan after seeing the simulation, the town will cover the effort’s cost, reported the Press.