This new construction is part of a bigger urban shift: To serve a growing and data-hungry population, cellular companies are racing to build new infrastructure along Denver’s residential blocks.
(TNS) — Corey Wadley dropped his service with Verizon a decade ago because of the company’s lackluster coverage in north Denver, he said. That may be changing — and he hates it.
Wadley recently discovered that Verizon’s newest cellular transmitter would be right outside his door.
“I went out to walk my dog and saw a truck and a Bobcat (excavator) right next to the house,” Wadley said. “I immediately got on the phone to everyone I could talk to.”
They were building a “small site” cell pole on the narrow stretch of grass between the sidewalk and the road, the public right of way that the city owns but residents maintain. It’s one of about 500 poles that could appear across the city in the near future. Now Wadley is the latest convert in a growing army of irritated residents in Denver and countless other cities.
It’s part of a bigger urban shift: To serve a growing and data-hungry population, cellular companies are racing to build new infrastructure along Denver’s residential blocks.
“When Denver first started, there were like six (cellular) sites, and they were all on the tallest buildings in town,” said John Rowe, a cellular infrastructure consultant in Denver.
Today, it’s nearly impossible to build large new facilities. Additionally, high-speed 5G service will require transmitters to be deployed for individual blocks. So the industry is infiltrating neighborhoods with 30-foot-tall metal poles, and companies also are retrofitting power and light poles.
“Now we’re going into the nooks and crannies of activity centers, running fiber to antennas that cover much smaller areas,” Rowe said.
Companies have built 163 freestanding cell poles around Denver in recent years, according to city permitting data, and they have requested permits for about 350 more. The towers are meant to improve current cell service and will form the backbone for higher-speed technologies.
“A lot of these poles we’re putting in now are an enhanced 4G, but they’re paving the way for a 5G environment,” said Scott Harry, government affairs manager for Crown Castle, an infrastructure provider.
So far, Verizon is the biggest player in the market. But competitor AT&T has filed for permits, as have Crown Castle, Mobilitie and Zayo Group, which provide services for other companies.
It’s resulted in new waves of outrage as the crews roll into new neighborhoods.
“We beautified the parkway there, the city right of way. We put in irrigation and sod and trees and everything,” said Wadley, a real estate broker. “And to just come drop this thing in there because it’s convenient to Verizon, it’s too much.”
The pole near his home is one of about 10 that he’s spotted plans for around Berkeley. Neighbors in Capitol Hill also have spotted construction crews. Downtown, Washington Park, Cherry Creek and patches of northeast Denver also have poles planned, according to city permitting data.
The city can do little to stop the construction. A new state law gives the companies broad rights to plant their poles in the public right of way, a right supported by federal authorities.
The companies are taking some steps to minimize new construction. They have made requests to place about 1,000 transmitters on utility poles and cables, and some poles — including Crown Castle’s — will host multiple carriers. But there’s no requirement they do so.
Neighborhood groups also are asked to weigh in on applications for new poles, but there are only a few specific reasons that the city can reject a pole, including “unreasonable visual blight.” One notable catch: The poles also are supposed to be 25 feet from trees in the right of way.
“We should have planted a little more trees,” Wadley said.
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