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City of Tucson & residents have zero control over cell pole placement

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Looking at the small cell pole, it looks a lot like a light pole, but if you look a little closer, it is not. It is actually a wireless pole to provide faster speed internet and better cell reception.

It sounds great right? Not exactly great news if you are a resident with one in your front yard.

"I do not think it adds to my property value. I asked them if there were other options besides near my front door and they said no based on the grid they set up," said Tucson resident Josh Franklin.

Franklin did not have a say in the new cell pole outside his house. In fact, he found out about it when they were digging in his yard two months ago. He contacted the City of Tucson. They do not have a say in the installation either.

According to state legislation, the city's role is only processing permits for these small cell wireless poles.

"We review the permits as they come in, make sure they are in compliance with the requirements of the permit and then we issue the permit," City of Tucson Department of Transportation & Mobility Deputy Director Sam Credio said.

Verizon and AT&T install these poles.

"We have no say on where the poles actually go. That design is done by Verizon and AT&T," said Credio.

"They decide where to put them and they place them around areas to establish a network and they place them where they see they need to go. There is no requirement for the City to advise the public or the neighbors that are being directly affected or hold a public hearing," said Electromagnetic Safety Alliance Executive Director Elizabeth Kelley.

Kelley said these poles are designed for good.

"Faster speed, greater connectivity and shorter latency, which means instantaneously communication."

But, from a health standpoint, there are worries.

"The effects on the general environment, on all living species from the radiation patterns. The effects on our real estate. The affects on our privacy," said Kelley.

Which is frustrating for residents, like Josh Franklin.

"I do not think it adds to my property value. I asked them if there were other options besides near my front door and they said no based on the grid they set up," he said.

Verizon said there is no evidence that cell sites of any kind have a negative impact on property values. They told News 4 Tucson recent evidence showed that access to solid, consistent wireless coverage and capacity is a major factor with today's homebuyers.

Regardless, Franklin said, he is moving.

Below are statements from Verizon and AT&T.

Verizon:

"Verizon's network provides the broadest coverage, best speeds, and unsurpassed reliability. We consistently invest in our network so that we can offer our customers the quality experience and the reliability they expect and deserve - today and in the future."

"As more people are doing more things, in more places, with more mobile devices, we've seen a dramatic increase in voice and data traffic on our network. We only expect that trend to increase. To support the growing demand, it's often necessary to build new wireless facilities (including traditional macro cell sites and small cells) where customers want and need to use our service."

"Verizon follows all local, state and federal requirements for any installations for small cell and/or macro site installations."

"There is no definitive evidence that cell sites of any kind have a negative impact on property values. Recent evidence shows that access to solid, consistent wireless coverage and capacity is a major factor with today's homebuyers. In fact, it is of extreme importance to Millennials. A recent survey by RootMetrics found that cellular service is of major importance to homebuyers (76% of responders) and more important than schools (60%) when looking for a home. Wireless coverage trailed only crime rates (96%), local taxes (90%), and amenities like parks and shops (84%)."

"Consumer wireless data use continues to explode, and is expected to grow 5x greater by 2021 than what we see today. To meet -- and stay ahead of -- rising demand for mobile data, we are using small cells to deliver the coverage, capacity and network reliability to users where they need it most."

"Unlike traditional "macro" cell towers, which are large in size, small cells are typically mounted on existing structures like utility poles and street lamps, and are designed to be "low and tight" and blend in to the existing environment making them less obtrusive."

"Small cells are for more than streaming videos and posting to social media sites. These sites provide needed infrastructure to enable things like Smart City technology, cloud adoption, connected schools, and the Internet of Things (IoT)."

"Verizon's 4G LTE small cell (densification) strategy across the nation we began implementing years ago is paving the way for adding 5G small cells in metro areas. Small cell deployment helps energize local economies. Smart city applications, which apply IoT technology to municipal services, can improve the livability of a community and reduce operating costs for city infrastructure. (Washington Post). Vitally dependent on deployment of small cells in high-traffic areas, 5G will empower public safety and emergency services to integrate new technologies."

AT&T:

"We continually look for ways to improve our network, and this includes maintaining and improving the critical infrastructure that promotes enhanced service and connectivity. These poles are owned by the City of Tucson. We are attaching our small cell equipment to both brand new poles and upgraded replacement poles."

"We receive all proper approvals from public officials prior to placing the poles in the Right of Way. These changes will help further improve coverage in the area for homes and businesses."

"We are working within the guideline of HB2365. This is the law that was passed in 2018 and we are in compliance with local and federal standards which allows us to be in the Right of Way owned by the city or jurisdiction."

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Allie Potter

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