Clearing the air

Company reps say proposal not meant to raise ire

The California-based public utility company Mobilitie wants to install ‘data poles’ in Prospect like the one pictured on the side of the road above. –CONTRIBUTED

The California-based public utility company Mobilitie wants to install ‘data poles’ in Prospect like the one pictured on the side of the road above. –CONTRIBUTED

NEW BRITAIN — Representatives from a telecommunications company and government oversight agencies met last week to open a dialogue regarding a plan to install cell phone towers in towns across the state.

The California-based public utility company Mobilitie sent letters to over 100 municipalities this summer stating its intention to install the so-called “data poles” in the towns. Prospect was among the towns that received such a letter. The company wants to install two 120-foot monopoles in Prospect’s right of way — one on Chandler Drive near the intersection of Waterbury Road and one on Waterbury Road near the Waterbury town line.

The letter drew the ire of municipal leaders across the state, not only due to the proposal but because of its tone. Many municipal leaders, including Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, felt the letter was merely informing them that the company will be installing the poles without going through the proper channels.

During a Sept. 28 meeting hosted by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, Attorney David Bogan, who represents Mobilitie, said the company didn’t mean to upset municipalities with the letters.

“Because Mobilitie has an aggressive plan throughout the country it used what it views as a standard template for reaching out to various jurisdictions,” Bogan said. “The prerequisite to applying to the Siting Council is that you have a municipal consultation process. Unfortunately the letters sent to those municipalities characterized the correspondence as an application for right of way utilization.”

Bogan said Mobilitie’s intent is to follow the correct process.

“The company intends to comply with whatever the jurisdictional requirements are with respect to the various types of attachments,” Bogan said.

The meeting last week was convened by the Office of Consumer Council. Representatives from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Connecticut Siting Council, and a number of municipalities were also in attendance.

Since the company has not submitted an official application the meeting was considered a technical meeting. Representatives from Mobilitie said the company will submit an application before the end of the year.

Mobilitie Vice President of Government Relations Joe Sutton said the company is planning to come to Connecticut in order to help mobile and internet carriers deal with the demand for connectivity. The use of these wireless devices has put a greater and greater demand on data transfer from major and internet carriers, he said.

“Society today has become very dependent on their smartphone. The data trends are showing that that appetite for data is not going to reduce in the near future. In fact it is going to increase. However, these networks that are already currently existing in this country are already struggling to manage the amounts of data that consumers are using,” Sutton said.

Mobilitie proposes to install small cell networks on existing light poles and telephones poles, and build 120-foot data transfer poles around the state in order to help deal with the demand for data, Sutton said.

Sutton said the company has done similar projects for Churchill Downs, the race track in Louisville, Ky., where the Kentucky Derby is held, and in parts of Las Vegas, Nev.

Attorney Burt Cohen, who represents the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said CCM is concerned whether Mobilitie is going to enter into lease agreements with the landowners where it places its towers. He said every wireless carrier that has placed a tower in the state has entered into a lease agreement with the property owner before constructing the tower.

Cohen also expressed concerns that Mobilitie would use its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which it was previously granted by the state as a utility company, try to circumvent obtaining a lease agreement.

“If that’s the case, it would be CCM’s position that that is very inappropriate and not consistent with the law. Right now you have various tower companies … that are saying ‘why did we enter into lease agreements in the state and why did we go before the Siting Council when we could have gotten a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from this agency,” Cohen said.

Bogan said Mobilitie will comply with whatever regulatory and jurisdictional requirements are imposed on them.

“They’ll do whatever law requires,” Bogan said.

PURA Vice Chairman John “Jack” Betkoski III urged Mobilitie to be open as the company moves ahead with its plans.

“Let the municipalities know what you are doing. You said you sent out a letter, but I think there was a little bit of a miscommunication. So right away red flags went up. So I would caution the company to make sure they keep their communication clear and open with municipalities so we can avoid a lot of unnecessary hearings and mediation,” Betkoski said.