Meanwhile, another school leased an antenna site in the middle of its playground. Revenues from the site are great, but there has been wholesale withdrawal of children by parents because of safety concerns. It appears the FCC's assurance that "in-spec" antennas present no health risk does not pass some parent's litmus test for acceptable risk.
Sometimes revenue is the issue. Bob Noe, city manager of Tamarac, Fla., wants the city to be a good corporate partner. Earlier this year his staff noticed that PrimeCo was installing antennas on light poles. Although the poles belong to the local utility company, FP&L, the city felt the utility company violated their right-of-way (ROW) lease agreement by not first negotiating a new agreement that would share revenues received from PrimeCo.
SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS
There is a need to develop better corporate partner relations, as issues involving ROW are still being discussed, argued and litigated around the country. Feelings of betrayal and deception on the part of all parties continue to grow. Although the cited examples are in Florida, similar war stories abound across the country from city managers and their telecommunications staff. Problems often start with a massive communication breakdown, with both sides at fault.
Many jurisdictions do not have adequate staff to work out the unique requirements and demands of antenna siting. Without a strong information base, those jurisdictions are at the mercy of pushy salespersons, hysterical residents and sometimes naive council members or commissioners. Jurisdictions with capable, professional telecommunication experts on their staffs and with the situation in control are in the minority.
Common within the industry are independent site acquisition companies who represent PCS providers. They may be individuals, real-estate companies, or professional site negotiators. This adds up to a very mixed bag of agents local governments must deal with, but deal with them they must. There are bona fide and pressing needs for antenna sites if the private sector is to provide needed services.
The industry, however, must do a much better job of educating and working with local governments. At a meeting attended by scores of city and county representatives and several cellular/PCS representatives, an industry spokesperson made a presentation on behalf of the private sector. What occurred was a genuine misunderstanding of local government issues and expectations. The presenter spent most of his allotted time using condescending parables to pitch the merits and benefits of the wireless industry such as emergency calls, crime reporting and disaster control/mitigation. These are all worthy causes local governments already believe in, so the spokesperson was preaching to the choir. A much more effective approach would have been to address the issue at hand (antenna siting) and provide an honest, open discussion and suggest solutions.
What the future holds for us is hard to say. Spin doctors and soothsayers are predicting a major shakeout in the PCS industry within the next few years. It seems the market can only support about half the current players and alleged players. A possible complication might develop if the current PCS provider goes bankrupt and no one wants to take over their structure.
The Innovation Groups recently performed a market study for an antenna site management company. The conclusion was that the company should not enter into the local government marketplace, but instead, concentrate on the utility industry and commercial buildings for its antenna sites. One of the most influential factors was the lengthy public process of antenna siting -- as opposed to quick decisions by the private sector based on economic considerations. For this particular company, that made the most sense.
While antenna towers are here for the foreseeable future, there are some interesting technical developments on the horizon that could impact antenna siting. One such development is the contra-wound toroidal antenna, which