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NYT on Cell Phone Tower Controversy 481

prostoalex writes "The New York Times discusses the controversy of placing cell phone towers on top of hills, a practice to which many people object. According to the article, people frequently complain about the visual impediment and are afraid that property values will decline or some health damage will be done with radio waves. At the same time, people get quite irritated when proper phone service is not provided by the operators, and the calls keep dropping or coverage is poor outside of densely populated areas. Phone companies also lease the land to place the cell phone tower for $30,000-$50,000, which is attractive to many landowners, but some, like Sammy Barsa from NYT article, find themselves persona non grata in the community."
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NYT on Cell Phone Tower Controversy

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  • by appleLaserWriter ( 91994 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @09:58PM (#12403294)
    Fro $50k / hill / month, I'll be happy to play the role of persona non grata.
    • by mctk ( 840035 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:03PM (#12403328) Homepage
      For $50k a month, I'd be happy to host a cell tower on my head.
    • Re:business model (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Monday May 02, 2005 @12:00AM (#12404104)
      My family was in a situation with this a few years ago. When I was in college, the town wanted to sell a small plot of land directly behind my neighbors across the street to (I think) Sprint. They wanted to put up a HUGE cell tower to cover the town and the nearby highway. Of course the people for it were those out of sight from the monstrosity or those that would have benefitted financially. It was one of those things where they tried to be quiet about it, and I don't think they even announced that they were going to vote on it.

      This thing woud have dwarfed everything around it, houses and the few very short trees. It was a full sized tower you'd see off the Parkway. It would have been right behind their fence and right across the street from our house. We put up flyars showing how tall it was compared to the nearby houses, and it was like 3x taller (perhaps more, I forget).

      Such a thing is an eyesore, and I could deal with that. However, big eyesoard drop property values and we consider our house an asset. They plan on moving out in a few years when they retire and obviously don't want their property value plummetting when the have to sell. It's really their one big asset.

      It was tough to dissuade the town, they were getting money and were explaining how much better our cell coverage would be. That was a laugh as the coverage in town was already damn good (full bars on Verizon and AT&T at the time). So big deal, the town gets another ~50k a year and our [b]already great[/b] cell coverage would have gotten an iota better.

      I can't blame individuals for wanting to do it, especially if they need the money. But for our town to want to do it for what would have been (let's face it) a small amount for a well-off town was rediculous.
  • by Ahkorishaan ( 774757 ) <ahkorishaan@gm a i l . com> on Sunday May 01, 2005 @09:58PM (#12403300)
    As someone who has had a cell phone tower on their property, I think it's a pretty sweet deal. And they aren't really that intrusive anymore, some designs are actually rather low profile, of course those are only meant for rural town coverage, but it's still not so bad.

    And the 28,000 we recieve a year is as much as the income of a low-income family.
  • by Azadre ( 632442 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @09:59PM (#12403304)
    That way no one can see them from afar ;)
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @09:59PM (#12403306) Homepage Journal
    Wind farms are seen the same.
    Its an expansion of the technological lifestyle, and a shift away from the purity of nature.

    I'm all for people reusing industrial/hidden rundown areas for these eyesores, and prefer to keep the countryside views clear.
    • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Monday May 02, 2005 @12:12AM (#12404164) Homepage
      I find the negative view of windfarms odd. They're beautiful things. You drive down a grassy road and you see hundreds of these giant rotating blades slowly spinning in the wind. The whole experience is a bit surreal, like passing into a 60's music video. These giants are there, always moving but never going anywhere. The constant, rhythmic flow of motion is quite nice juxtaposed against the quick, jerky motion of modern living. No matter how many times I drive by the windfarm on the way to Sacramento, I always enjoy the experience.

      Water towers are the same. They're big, surreal bulbs cropping out of tree lines. They ground an area and let you know where you are, and where you are going. They're like the biggest tree in the forest. I've always thought of them as quite pretty.

      • by rxmd ( 205533 ) on Monday May 02, 2005 @05:12AM (#12405305) Homepage
        I find the negative view of windfarms odd. They're beautiful things.
        I have a friend who lives north of a large wind farm here in Northern Germany. What drives him crazy (besides the sometimes rather considerable noise) is that the shadow from the rotor blades passes through his living room every couple seconds.

        I do like the idea of wind farms in gerneral, but I also see that there might be a problem with having one in your back yard.
    • What world do you live in? When did we last have nature? I remember a film producer talking about how hard it was to find a setting for his movie. He needed a wide expanse of untouched plain. It was very difficult to find.

      I have seen farms in South America. Long lines of power lines and road destroying the pristinene pastures. Not to mention the coal mining and brick making operations covering everything in soot.

      We had a farm about an hour out of town in Texas. Again, power lines, telephone line

  • Sweet Deal (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:02PM (#12403326)
    It's a sweet deal if you happen to own a piece of land that a phone company wants to use for a tower. For whatever reason, they prefer to lease land rather than buy, and they pay pretty well for the priveledge of doing this. My mother has such a piece of land, and it nets her around $1000/month last I heard.

    What really makes the deal sweet though is that the amount of land taken up by the tower is really small, and you're free to do anything else on the land that you want. I suppose what they're really leasing from you is the privlege to put a tower on your property.

    In my mother's case it's a rental property with a fair amount of land, and the tower sits back far from the house. So it doesn't really interfere with the tennants lives, and it basically gives her money-for-nothing every month.

  • by PornMaster ( 749461 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:03PM (#12403331) Homepage
    Not In My Back Yard for...

    Cell phone towers
    Windmill farms
    Nuclear power plants

    People would love the benefits of all three, but only if they're nowhere to be seen, or in the case of the nuke plants, just far, far away.

    I hope for karmic retribution for these people.
    • The thing about cell towers is that they aren't especially dangerous and they don't produce noise or polution or much of anything anyone should bitch about. This sounds like pure technophobia to me. They can't even come up with a reasonable complaint about why they don't want the towers near them.

      If you don't want something in your line of sight then buy all the land around where you live. Otherwise fuck off. Stop telling other people what they can and can't do with their own land.
      • If you don't want something in your line of sight then buy all the land around where you live. Otherwise fuck off. Stop telling other people what they can and can't do with their own land.

        Remember that sentiment when your upwind neighbor wants to build a pig farm or a junkyard.

        (not equating a pig farm with an innocuous cell phone tower, but blanket statements about land use are silly)

        • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:47PM (#12403680) Homepage Journal
          I've lived next to a pig farm. It sucked but I didn't try to tell them they couldn't have pigs.

          Farming, I think, does have more reasons for some controls. There should be some control as to the waste output of farms. I've seen to many that just dump their sewage into the local water system without any treatment or anything.

          My experience with living in rural areas is that you always live next to a junkyard. You always have some enighbor who thinks it's a good idea to have 50 scrap cars, a few refridgerators, etc spread across their property. Again it is none of my business as long as they aren't imposing a safety risk to the community.

          If you're not creating a danger to others and you're on your own land then you should be left alone. I hate community nitpicking. Home Owner's groups are the worst. Noooo you can't build your kids a tree house.. that might look tacky and lower land values. Doh. Then you have endless hassles over installing solar or wind power because neighbors don't like the way it looks. Who cares if it's better for the enviroment. :p
          • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Monday May 02, 2005 @04:31AM (#12405193) Homepage Journal
            [rant voice="farmboy"]

            If you want Beverly Hills, stay in B.H. Don't all move out to the country together, then try to make it into B.H. -- all that does is destroy the rural character that made it an attractive place to live in the first place.

            In fact, we LIKE our local trailer trash and their junkyard, because hopefully they'll make it look bad to B.H. types, so they'll go build their fancy custom homes somewhere else, where they won't negatively impact OUR rural lifestyle.

            The problem with "neighbour control" is that it tends to snowball. Today you can't have a pig farm, tomorrow you can't have horses or put up a barn, next year you're required to landscape your property with N-many trees and X-much lawn (do they offer to pay your increased water bills? hell no!), and the year after that you're forced to ALWAYS keep your non-running car in the garage (don't have a garage? Tough, you may be required to build one.) Yes, ALL of these are realworld scenarios I've either actually encountered, or have seen proposed.

            Most bizarre case I've seen, even the colour of your MAILBOX was controlled. And this was clear out in the boonies, as Los Angeles County goes, with exactly ONE neighbour in sight.

    • NIMBY is old-school. The joke among developers and those who have to site projects today is that NIMBYs have turned into BANANAs

      Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything

      • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:54PM (#12403734)
        That's funny.

        It reminds me of some of the events that happened in Upstate NY in the last few years. Its a region where the only real employer left is government, and new jobs are supposedly a highly desired commodity to local leaders.

        The first was a microprocessor fab, to be built in an existing industrial area and to employ nearly 2,500 skilled people. The objections from the surrounding suburban communities that tipped the county legislature's decision?

        Increased traffic.

        The second was a concrete plant intended to replace an existing plant that was built during World War 2. The new plant would use newer technologies that would decrease most types of air pollution, but increase particularate matter emmissions slightly; while tripling output and doubling employment.

        The construction wasn't approved, after a multi-million dollar advertising campaign... now the existing plant is going to be expanded, which will translate into a net increase in pollution and less new employment.

        But some wealthy land speculators won't have their pristine views spoiled! Thank goodness!
    • I hope for karmic retribution for these people.

      I'd mod them down for you, but most of them don't use Slashdot.
    • People would love the benefits of all three, but only if they're nowhere to be seen, or in the case of the nuke plants, just far, far away.

      And what the hell is wrong with that?

      I like the benefits from sewage treatment plants too, but I don't want it located downtown, next to my favorite restaurant. There are proper places for everything.

      Windmill farms make a lot of noise if you're near them, so putting it near a residental neighborhood is a bad idea. Nuclear power plants are potentially a danger, so

  • Simple fix (Score:3, Funny)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:04PM (#12403333) Homepage Journal
    "but some, like Sammy Barsa from NYT article, find themselves persona non grata in the community."

    That's easy to fix. If anybody complains, threaten to turn up the power!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:04PM (#12403338)
    I know cell phone towers are becoming a bane for us amateur astronomers. They are even sprouting up in remote dark sites that were once safe havens from light pollution. At a minimum if the towers would use red instead of white light the problem wouldn't be as bad.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Unfortunately the red lights confuse the migrating birds.

      http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/issues/towers/beason .html [fws.gov]

      "Two aspects of tower lighting that can attract birds are its color (white lights, ultraviolet, or specific wavelengths) and the duration of light (strobes, flashing lights, or steady lights) as pointed out previously. Both these aspects remain unresearched. Unfortunately, there have been no controlled experiments as to which colors birds find most or least attractive. Anecdotal reports,
    • At least that is a real, valid, complaint that could be taken into account and done something about. Just not building towers isn't a solution. Building towers that don't pollute the night skies though is a solution. I assume they use lights for safety reasons? (Planes etc). What do radio and tv station towers do to reduce this problem?
  • by doublebackslash ( 702979 ) <doublebackslash@gmail.com> on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:05PM (#12403343)
    Ok, lets just get ONE THING F*ING CLEAR:
    Radiation is not like other everyday occurances, either radiation ionizes your molecules/atoms, or it dosen't. It's not like pushing a car down the road, where you will get thre no matter what, its just a mater of time, no. It's more like pushing a car up a hill, either your strong enough, or not.
    Thats is why lab rats get cancer, or other assorted forms of doom, when they are exposed to "Cell phone like radiation", they get a higher dose to 'accelerate' (change the outcome of, whatever) the experiment. If they were given the dose that you recieve from standing a few hundred feet from a tower, or holding a cell phone an inch or so from your brain the rats would have jack.
    Do some research, folks. Better yet, how bout the media do a bit of reporting! Tell folks what I just did, DUMB IT DOWN, make peoiple understand that unless the tests are fair, they mean SQUAT.
    Sorry for all the shouting. False science makes me angry. You should hear me in my programing class.
    • by Easy2RememberNick ( 179395 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:38PM (#12403609)
      Yes and people strap magnets to every part of their body thinking it affects their "magnetic blood" (which it isn't) in some way. Lord help you if you put a 300 foot high cell tower ten miles away from them...they're gonna die!!

      Meanwhile they get an MRI which is 50,000 times stronger than the entire Earth's magnetic field.

      I can see how dictators do it, it's so easy.
    • by nodwick ( 716348 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:15PM (#12403854)
      when they are exposed to "Cell phone like radiation", they get a higher dose to 'accelerate' (change the outcome of, whatever) the experiment. If they were given the dose that you recieve from standing a few hundred feet from a tower, or holding a cell phone an inch or so from your brain the rats would have jack. Do some research, folks.
      It sounds more like you're not familiar with the way radiation exposure testing is conducted. Obviously neither rats nor people are going to develop cancer after being exposed to micro levels of radiation over short periods of time. The question researchers are addressing is whether prolonged exposure over many years will cause a higher incidence of cancer in the long term.

      Since it's impractical to simply expose animal subjects to continuous low-level radiation and check back on them 20 years later (by that time, it'll be too late for the results to be useful), controlled experiments are used to mimic the effects of long-term exposure. Common adjustments include increasing the radiation dose, as well as engineering the lab animals to be more susceptible to cancer development. This way, the duration of the experiments is shortened enough so that we get the results quickly enough for them to be useful.

      The flip side is that the conditions obviously aren't exactly the same as the ones that humans are being exposed to anymore, which is why the arguments about whether cell phone radiation is harmful or not remains inconclusive. (For example, how similar are the new engineered animals to regular ones?) But to dismiss the results out of hand just because you don't understand the methodology is poor reasoning.

      • by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Monday May 02, 2005 @12:37AM (#12404296)
        The methodology is prone to screamingly bad results in situations like this.

        In effect, they're saying "We're going to test if soaking for an hour in warm water is bad for you, by immersing you in boiling water for 60 seconds. Sure, it's hotter, but it's for a lesser period so it works out the same."

        Obviously, anyone will see that's a ridiculous statement, but that's because they have experience with warm water. Radiation is too abstract a concept without even starting in on it's lack of physical evidence until well after the fact.
    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday May 02, 2005 @04:50AM (#12405248) Journal
      Here's some free clue, lemming: any kind of electromagnetic radiation is made of photons. Yes, exactly what goes for visible light, goes for any other wavelength.

      There is no such bullshit threshold where above X watt it's ionizing, under X watt it's not ionizing. If a single photon can cause a transition in an atom or mollecule, it will. That's the only either-or condition.

      Pumping more watts, i.e., more of those photons per second, doesn't change that. There is no such thing as needing 100 photons to cause a transition. Either _one_ causes it, or any amount doesn't.

      I.e., if something happens at 100W, it happens just as well at 1 milli-Watt or even 1 micro-Watt. You just have more or less of those ionized atoms, depending on the power. That's all.

      I.e., those tests _are_ fair, and they're done by people who actually understand what's happening there.

      "False science makes me angry."

      Well, then do us all a favour and stop spouting bullshit about stuff you don't have any clue about. Actually read a physics book instead of making your own pseudo-science bullshit.

      And no, just because you're the latest nerd in a CS university does _not_ make you an expert in everything on Earth. For starters, as you just proved, it doesn't mean jack squat about knowing any physics.
      • You need to learn some physics as well. There is a difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Yes, you are correct, the power level is not what determines the difference, but that doesn't mean that *all* photons can cause ionization. There is something called the photoelectric effect. Below a certain frequency threshold (depends on the material somewhat, but is all in the visible or higher) a photon does not have enough energy to ionize material. Therefore, microwave photons are not going to io
      • Pumping more watts, i.e., more of those photons per second, doesn't change that. There is no such thing as needing 100 photons to cause a transition. Either _one_ causes it, or any amount doesn't.

        Ummm, as someone who spent several years dealing with atomic spectroscopy in college, I can tell you that you are wrong. There are two photon transitions, and even three, four, etc ones. My PhD work was based on two-photon ionization of sodium (and a few other atoms). Smack sodium with "orange photons" (D lines),

  • People want to have their cake and it also. Right in front of my house is a huge electric tower that take power to an Intel fab about a mile away. Yes, they wanted Intel to set up a plant here. No, nobody was willing to sacrifice a little for the benefits. Anything new to see here? no, I don't think so
    • I admire your stoicism, but how about finding better solutions that are less objectionable?

      Instead of ugly power lines, let's lay power and telephone lines underground, even if it does cost a few extra bucks. Instead of hundreds of cell towers, how about a high altitude airship?

      • Hey, I'm all for it, but in the meanwhile it's not like Intel is going to work with candlelight. Let me put it this way: we're a small country. Last year our gross internal product grew 5%, but 2% of the figure is solely due to Intel. And even then our economy sucks, imagine without Intel
      • Burying cable seems less objectionable only with the shortest of foresight. Underground cables can break or wear out (especially in earthquake prone areas), and they can't be easily upgraded to accommodate new technology. Every time maintenance needs to be done, the street needs to be dug up.

        Ever priced out a trench to bring new cable to your house? As soon as you do, you'll be smacking yourself upside the head for railing against "those eyesore utility poles." Everything artificial is an eyesore for t
  • Make the tower look like a tree! Sheesh!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:10PM (#12403381)
    The visual blight caused by regular phone poles and electrical poles is far worse than for cel towers. Why do people accept regular phone poles but make such a fuss over cel towers? Regular phone poles are much more dangerous as well - consider the number of people who are hurt or killed when they hit them with cars...
  • Make them less ugly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hugzz ( 712021 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:10PM (#12403382)
    I live on a hill in a very foresty area. it's very beautiful, but there's TV towers directly across a few kilometers on another mountain. They really dont stand out too much so i really wonder how much extra effort it would take to camoflage them in

    Surely just painting them light blue or white to suit the sky would make them half dissapear. Cheap and easy solution for a non problem.

    Oh, and for the record- our TV reception SUCKS.

    • by Ironsides ( 739422 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:15PM (#12403421) Homepage Journal
      Surely just painting them light blue or white to suit the sky would make them half dissapear. Cheap and easy solution for a non problem.

      Tell that to the first guy to fly into the tower because he COULDN"T SEE THE TOWER. There is a reason the toweres I see are neon orange with red blinking lights. Make them hard to see and you are asking for a helicopter/plain pilot to fly into one. Although, I wonder how you can camoflage a 2,000 foot tower. Making it look like a tree is a joke. Making it dark makes it harder to see, and a danger to pilots.

      As for you TV reception, try tuning to that channel. It could be the multipath interference, or maybe you just aren't tuning to that channel.
      • I'll ask the first guy to fly into the "hidden" tower why the fsck he was flying so damn low over my property in the first place. Planes overhead will bring down property values way faster than decent cell phone reception.
  • by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:15PM (#12403426) Homepage Journal
    In Australia, they've started renting space in church steeples. They make the antennae very unobtrusive, and their RF and SONET gear doesn't take up much space. Pumps quite a bit of money into churches that can be used for community projects, aid, missions, etc.
  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:22PM (#12403484)
    That you no longer have property rights to do what you please with your property you own. You can't build without a permit, you can't build without getting your plans ok'ed by local zoning boards. You can't develop on your land if it isn't zoned right.

    The one thing that retains best value in America and you can't do what you please with it when you own it. Property rights are the biggest thing for a free society, without them you have nothing.

    If you had proper property rights for land you own you wouldn't need the EPA becuase you could sue those big companies that polute your land and get the proper restitution for them destroying your land. But perversions in propery rights have made people dependent on the State to receive alimony for damages.
    • Yes, it's true, the rest of us think we have some right to tell you what you can and can't do with your property. We'll be happy to change our minds, and concede that your land is yours to do absolutely whatever you like with if you will please show us the deed that was issued to you by God. What? It was issued by the State? You mean your ownership of the land is derivative of the society you live in in the first place? Interesting.

      I can sue companies for poluting my land right now. So the absence of
      • Well, the founders of this particular State believed that the rights were issued by God. That's why they were prone to use phrases like "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." The Founding Fathers were mostly believers in the principle of Natural Law, the notion that humans have a certain intrinsic moral nature (imparted by a divine figure) that social laws must reflect, or face just rebellion. So, when the Founding Fathers put the "just compensation" clause into the Constitution, it
  • In my town there are two cell sites (although I still can't get service at my house, so for some reason Verizon Wireless doesn't seem to use these towers, but that's beside the point). One is hidden away in the town church's steeple, which is nice because it gets the church money that it needs and also provides cell service without an eyesore. The other is disguised as a giant (and I mean giant) flagpole next to the main highway. So both provide service (or so I'm told) without making the eyesore of a tradi
  • by TimmyDee ( 713324 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:24PM (#12403499) Homepage Journal
    There's some spammy/spyware like "iWon" thing wrapped in that link. It places a little "iWon" banner at the top of the NYT page, which of course links to some bullshit "iWon" page, which of course probably makes our friend prostoalex a bunch of money.

    I'm not sure what else it does as I'm running OmniWeb on my Mac, but Windows users beware.

    Clean link: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/01/business/01tower s.html [nytimes.com]?
  • by Mateorabi ( 108522 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:27PM (#12403523) Homepage
    As a regular cell phone user, even if you start from the assumption that cell phone ratdiation is bad, it's still better to be close to a tower. Why? Because modern handsets will adjust their power output depending on how far you are from the tower. Yeah, the tower may be putting out 100x the power, but your brain is >>100x closer to your own handset. Its 1/r^2 folks. In fact the taller the tower the better.

    Now an eye-sore, it still can be.

  • Wind power turbines tend to be placed on monopoles taller than cell phone towers. Furthermore, the "best wind" is often near mountain ridges. The result is that the wind towers that would produce the most electricity tend to be the worst aesthetically.

    The cell phone tower v. skyline blight wars will pave the way for (or bottle up) the deployment of wind farms on ridges across the United States. Standard NIMBYism continues with cell towers, and more NIMBYism will come down the pike with wind power.
  • Leave it to the NYT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unassimilatible ( 225662 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:43PM (#12403653) Journal
    To report on a "controversy" that about 12 people were talking about.

    More agenda-setting, just like with Augusta and the Masters not allowing women members. Only a "controversy" because the NYT ran 100 piece on it.


    • Either the NYT makes mountains out of mole hills as you seem to infer, or they're the ones who manage to find the good and interesting stories that nobody else finds. Last I checked, that makes for good journalism.
  • by SoupIsGood Food ( 1179 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:12PM (#12403840)
    As Apple has shown time and again, style is a key objective of engineering in creating a desireable product. Building an aesthetically pleasing cell tower would do an end-run around most (tho by no means all) of the objections.

    A huge metal eyesore makes it harder for the product to be deployed. Disguising, blending or beautifying the towers to compliment their surroundings would make them easier to deploy. For example, in New England, many cell towers are hidden atop the towering smokestacks of 18th and 19th century mills (no longer used, but are pleasing brickwork architecture the building owners usually left in place.) They also lease space in tall church steeples... another commodity New England has in abundance.

    Where no steeples or smokestacks are available, companies should design a nice cladding that compliments the surroundings.

    Hire a real architecht with serious artistic chops to oversee the design and implementation of cell towers, and you spend a lot less money fighting hostile communities. Not hard to figure out.

    SoupIsGood Food
  • Suggestion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:14PM (#12403848)
    I've always thought many/most towers could be made to look like a work of art. If the skyline is going to be invaded, might as well make it interesting. Think of creative spires. Probably could even be designed with light materials and retrofitted to many existing towers.

    Heck, maybe somone is already doing it.
  • It's getting easier (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fsck! ( 98098 ) <jacob.elder@ g m a i l . c om> on Monday May 02, 2005 @12:09AM (#12404154) Homepage
    In my area, the cell "towers" are just antennas bolted to the side of already-hideous water towers or even disguised as a freakishly enormous flag pole. The flag pole is at a major intersection in the next town. It's more huge than you would ever expect to see in a town the size of Harwich, MA. But still, it could be a lot worse. The technology these days does make it possible to conceal these things. I doubt it's that much more expensive to do it like this. In the case of the water tower, it's probably quite a bit cheaper since they don't have to build the tower. Plus the money goes right to the town. I wonder why it's not more common.

    I guess it's a mixed bag. The NIMBYs that throw a fit when someone wants to put up a cell tower are the same morons that are freaking out about the Wind Farm project in Nantucket Sound. It's free, clean energy and our oil addiction is destroying us.

    I'm pretty off-topic here. Sorry.
  • Same with airports (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fireman sam ( 662213 ) on Monday May 02, 2005 @12:16AM (#12404182) Homepage Journal
    It used to be said that everybody wants to be 5 minutes from an airport, but nobody wants to have an airport in their area. The public is stupid.

    Phone Customer: The reception in my area is poor

    Phone support: Yes, that is because we have no transmitters in your area.

    Phone Customer: Why not? I deserve to have good reception, I pay my bills

    Phone support: We had planned to build one last year at the request of people in your area, but people in your area protested and the plan was scrapped. So, what do you want?

    Phone Customer: I want perfect reception in the middle of nowhere, with not a tower to be seen.

    Phone support: have a nice day.

    I think that about sums it up.
  • by NeuroManson ( 214835 ) on Monday May 02, 2005 @04:34AM (#12405203) Homepage
    In England, they have a practice of disguising cel phone antennae in a variety of creative ways, for example, with a fiberglass stone facade to blend in with a church's spires.

    Why can't they do this in the US? For that matter, why not just attach a cel phone antenna to the top of a tall, already existing tree? Unless there's major hurricanes or tornadoes to knock one over (a condition which would effect a tower mounted antenna as well), you wouldn't see them, except for fall (unless you bolt them to conifers).

    If you use the preexisting tree scenario, you save millions if not more, because you aren't wasting money on constructing towers out of steel. In fact, with that scenario, you can built antennae on mountains, etc, as far as you want. The added benefit is, of course, conservation, because the more trees standing around your antenna, the more relocation options you have for virtually zero cost.
  • by N3Bruce ( 154308 ) <n3lsy@NOSPAM.comcast.net> on Monday May 02, 2005 @08:47AM (#12405948) Journal
    Our family has owned since the 1920s, and I am currently living on a piece of land that is one of the highest points in Baltimore County. As a ham radio operator, this situation has obvious advantages, as undoubtedly it would if I would put up a communications tower. About 10 years ago, Verizon selected a tower site about 1/4 mile away at the local Volunteer Fire Department, which sits at least 60 feet lower than where my house now stands. For the privlege of having to erect 60 foot more tower than they needed to get the same coverage, they pay the local VFD about $15,000 a year. Good for the fire dept and community relations, but from an engineering perspective it is not the best location.

    Though my neighbors might think otherwise, I wouldn't mind having a 150 foot tall steel lightning rod nearby on a couple of acres that are just hayfield right now (I have had 3 damaging strikes in the last 2 years). I also wouldn't mind getting a piece of the cell company's largess that they seem to be handing out so freely to site owners.

    Putting transponders on hilltops, high-tension towers, water tanks and so on makes practical sense, but I see many cell sites around here chosen for political reasons rather than engineering ones.
  • Factoids (Score:3, Informative)

    by KaiBeezy ( 618237 ) <kaibeezy@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 02, 2005 @10:35AM (#12407108)
    Having been a leasing and zoning consultant on cell towers a while ago, here are some factoids:

    - The fake tree approach is made difficult by the fact that the towers need to be extremely stiff. The antennas are tuned to radiate very precise flat lobes with minimal back/up/down-scatter. Even a bit of flex ruins the pattern. That's why the flagpoles and trees look so ungainly and out-of-proportion.

    - Camouflage - fake trees, fake flagpoles, fake chimneys, etc. - are ungodly expensive. You can make a fake chimney, but it has to be out of fiberglass sculpted to match the building. There can be no internal metal frame which would block the signal, and even sharp interior corners of the fiberglass panels were rejected by the RF engineers. When you try to blend something into a building facade, differential weathering of exposed surfaces makes the antenna show up anyway, and you have to keep sending out painters to reapply the "make-up". $$$ The trees have to be made out of something that will stand up to weather and look OK for many years. Pine needles (fake trees are almost always "pines") in front of the antennas have to be designed not to scatter the signal. Who wants to climb the pole and replace branches? $$$

    - Overly tall poles are rare. The higher the pole, the more other cells that pole can "see", the more interference. You only see really tall poles or towers in very flat areas where the RF engineers can spread things way out. In even modest topography, the coverage area per pole is surprisingly small. This is exacerbated, as pointed out in the article, by the rising demand for "in-building coverage" which requires much stronger signals.

    - The best solution I was never able to implement was one which strung a series of small antennas along existing power/phone pole lines. Planners in the rich suburbs were much more amenable to this kind of thing, and the tech exists somewhat, but negotiating an agreement among the several utility companies who own the poles and right-of-ways jointly proved infuriating to the the (unbelievably impatient and fractious) cellphone companies.

    - My advice: If you're rich and you're about to get a tree tower giving you the finger from the highest hill in your otherwise pristine town, hire a consultant to negotiate a deal with your utility companies to let the wireless carriers string tiny repeaters down your streets. If you make an alternative available, the wireless company pretty much has to take it.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (9) Dammit, little-endian systems *are* more consistent!