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Cell phone carriers wary of APA rules

RAY BROOK - Representatives from four prominent cell phone carriers told the Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners Sept. 9 that locating competing companies' cell transmitters on a single tower is problematic and that the agency's tower policy is hindering further cell service expansion in the Park.

Representatives from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint\Nextel told APA commissioners that placing multiple carriers on a single tower isn't feasible for technical reasons and may be violate Federal Communications Commission collusion laws.

Gene Fassett, director of operations for Verizon in upstate New York, said that APA rules hindered cell expansion.

"The Adirondacks are a big area with the least amount of service in the state," Fassett said. "Wireless is a line-of-sight technology and the height restrictions here severely limit the number of potential sites and greatly increase the cost of constructing a new tower."

Faced with dozens of cell tower permit applications - including one for a tower in Pottersville - the APA is searching for methods of reducing the impact the towers have on the aesthetic character of the park by influencing companies to co-locate cellular transmitters at common sites.

This month alone, the agency is considering two permits for towers in North Hudson that would be less than 2,000 feet apart.

But according to Bob Holliday of AT&T, there are technical differences between the companies' services that make this impossible.

"There are three types of cellular service; GSM, PCS and idem," Holliday said. "Putting the three together just isn't feasible."

Fassett added that due to the APA's height restrictions that limit cell towers from rising substantially above the surrounding treetops in the park, even if multiple carriers of the same type were added, only the one at the very top of the tower would be effective.

"We are limited to being just above the tree tops," Fassett said. "The carriers locating transmitters under it would get very little out of being there."

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