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Greenwich High School Wants $631K to Fix Poor Cell Service

Greenwich Public Schools in Connecticut are asking the town for $1.1 million over five years to fix inadequate cell service at the high school, citing safety concerns in the event Wi-Fi goes down.

A cellphone tower with a partially cloudy sky behind it.
(TNS) — There is poor cell service at Greenwich High School, so district officials, once again, are asking for funding to fix the issue.

Both Greenwich Public Schools' and First Selectman Fred Camillo's proposed capital budgets include $631,000 for a project to begin fixing cell service at the high school. The project information sheet cites this as a "safety issue."

"In the absence of Wi-Fi, no mobile communication would be available from within the building, effectively making all smartphones non-functional, which would be disastrous in an emergency situation," according to the project information sheet.

For the third time, the district is asking for funding to fix cell service at GHS, said Michael Ting, GPS's chief technology officer, at the Board of Estimate and Taxation's (BET) budget committee hearing on Feb. 1.

The estimated cost of the project over a five-year time period will be around $1.1 million. The first two years will focus on completing the project, with the additional three years being used for monitoring and maintaining the equipment.

Last year, the BET rejected the funding for the project. Some BET members did not vote for the funding at the time because they wanted the option to look into other ways to improve the high school's cell service.

So, the first selectman's office, in collaboration with the district, tested two cell towers at the high school, but there were still signal issues.

Therefore, Blaize Levitan, the school district's chief operating officer, said "it was determined by the first selectman's office that this was not a viable option and after doing this exercise, they would also support the submission of this project."

Levitan added that, after doing the signal test, it was evident that the cell tower needed for the project was going to be "a more significant piece of infrastructure ... than was originally anticipated."

"It just comes down to the fact that that tower has to be too big for that location to be tolerable to the property," Levitan said.

But Levitan said that "the solution, at the end of the day, for getting cell service into the building is the same," which is piping the cell service into the building.

So, that's what the proposed project would do. The plan is to put antennas inside the building, while running the backhaul underground via fiber. This will allow for people to use their phones inside the building.

Ting said he reached out to vendors to see if they would financially support the project. But, he found that vendors would only do that if their company was the sole mobile provider.

"For example, if we went with Verizon, obviously they would only repeat Verizon signals and T-Mobile customers would be out of luck," Ting said.

He said the overall cell signal at the high school is "very poor," with the middle section of the building and underground areas having the worst signals.

"The lack of mobile phone service inside GHS presents a significant safety risk where as, in emergency situations, mobile phone users may not be able to communicate with anyone outside the building and this is especially true if the Wi-Fi is not working," Ting said.

However, Jonathan Supranowitz, director of communications for GPS, said in a statement that the district's "emergency notifications and responses do not rely on Wi-Fi signals."

"We would not share details of our systems due to operational security," he added.

©2024 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.