Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.
What would the candidate do to bring better cell phone coverage to Albany?
NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)
If elected I will work with citizens, staff and AT&T to find a suitable location for tower. I believe we should find a way to allow AT&T to install a new tower in Albany.
TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)
First I would investigate the options for revisiting the decision to deny the AT&T proposal.
Beyond that, our ordinance covering cell phone installations needs to be revised. The current ordinance provides too many ways to delay and deny a proposal. This means that people opposed to cell phone base stations for any reason have many ways to attack the project—despite the fact that cell phone coverage is a necessity for more and more people.
I believe the opposition to the proposal from AT&T was based on the fear of health risks and an anti-corporation bias.
The health concerns from cell phone base stations are not supported by science. There is scientific concern with the use of cell phone handsets—and the risk to the user is greater when there is not an adequate signal. When the signal from the base station is weak, the phone must generate a stronger signal, meaning greater exposure to the cell phone user.
As for the anti-corporation bias, AT&T is not significantly harmed by not having adequate coverage in our small city. Who is harmed are the Albany citizens who are AT&T customers and rely on their cell phones.
PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)
It’s time to reassess our current cell tower ordinance. Sites that could work well to expand service are excluded or are very difficult to approve with our current ordinance. Let's keep what works in the ordinance and change the parts that aren’t working so well. Perhaps, even more importantly, we as a city need to start the discussion on what we’re likely to see within the next five years—the DAS antennas. Palo Alto is implementing this system, and Berkeley is looking at possible sites. It’s the kind of system that has been used in Europe and the rest of the world for years. It uses numerous (one per 75 households), low power, and fairly unobtrusive antennas hung on light and telephone poles. Federal legislation will probably override any restrictions we may currently have on placement in residential areas. These are considered to be necessary to expand services. Eventually, nearly all data, phone, internet, video, etc., will come through this system. The city needs to prepare for this and, if done correctly, can receive a stream of revenue out of this development.
PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)
We need to revisit the ordinance to see what is working and what is not; then we need to amend the ordinance.
SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)
I would like all Albany residents to have good cell phone coverage in town, regardless of their carrier. Currently, this requires installing and/or updating cell phone towers/antennas, particularly for certain carriers who lack adequate coverage in Albany. The process involves an application process, which carriers are required to follow in accordance with our Wireless Facilities Ordinance. I will facilitate this process by directing carriers to pre-approved sites for new towers in accordance with our ordinance, as City Council has already started to do. However, this technology is changing. In the near future, these large powerful cell towers will likely be replaced by much smaller, multiple antennas, which emit less radiation, known as Distributed Antenna Systems. I will advocate for amending our ordinance to cover this technology.
ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)
Large cell phone towers with lots of antennas on them are going away. The new technology that the entire cell phone market is moving to is called Distributed Antenna System (DAS). Our current Wireless Facilities Ordinance does not cover DAS installations. I will move Council to amend our code to include DAS technology.
DAS takes the same power of a large antenna and distributes it between multiple smaller antennas. “A single antenna radiating at high power is replaced by a group of low-power antennas to cover the same area.” In addition to operating at lower power, this antenna can also transfer far more data. The antenna is much smaller and easier to hide. This is a win, win, win for everyone. As is so often the case, when technology presents a problem, technology can also solve the problem. When we migrate over to DAS, Albany will have far superior coverage at lower power. Yeah! [Read more]
MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)
On Feb. 22, 2005, the City Council passed our restrictive cell tower ordinance. Only Mayor Bob Goode (a CSU physics professor) voted against it. Only one other community member spoke against it that night. According to the official minutes:
“Mr. Michael Barnes, Albany Unified School District, noted that the RF meter readings are extremely low around town and that health issues were not a strong concern and urged the Council to be careful when making the regulations on adverse impacts down the road.”
Bob Goode and I realized even then that the ordinance was a disaster waiting to happen. My opinion hasn’t changed. If I were elected to council, I would immediately get to work getting this ordinance revised. Local communities provide several good models for how to proceed.
As I write this, the City Council is considering hiring a well qualified consultant to provide the city with information on cell base station-siting questions. I look forward to hearing the consultant’s report.
Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.