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Verizon booster ‘small cells’ explained, approved at council meeting

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council on Monday night learned about a new type of cellular communications technology that will now be installed in Worthington after being approved by an unanimous vote.

WORTHINGTON - The Worthington City Council on Monday night learned about a new type of cellular communications technology that will now be installed in Worthington after being approved by an unanimous vote. 

The council unanimously approved a licensing agreement with Alltel Communication (referred to as Verizon) to install cell phone signal booster devices officially called “small cells” on two streetlights in Worthington - one on Ray Drive near McDonald’s, one just off the U.S. 59/Minnesota 60 roundabout.
The purpose of the small cells, Mayor Mike Kuhle explained, is to boost Verizon’s signal at targeted high-traffic areas and take some of the burden off main cell towers around Worthington. A Verizon representative present at the meeting said that after the small cells are installed, Worthington Verizon customers can expect faster data speeds when using apps and other features that require the use of cellular data.

The two cellular boosters that will be installed - the small cells - function like mini-booster antennas and are currently being rolled out across the country by major wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T. The pace of installation has accelerated in the past couple of years, with networks looking to speed service as much as possible. The cells are installed in high-traffic areas - 400 were put into service in downtown San Francisco last year, according to Gigaom.com - and are a major part of cell companies’ future network plans.
Beck, a Verizon representative and the city’s legal representative in this contract, explained that the city will be paid $1,500 per pole for the initial cost. Verizon will pay for the cost of the two heavier-duty poles that the small cells will require, and Beck said the project should not be a financial burden or obligation for the city.
The city will enter into a 10-year contract it could choose to not renew if it wished, but Beck advised that it would not be reasonable for anything other than a public purpose to terminate it. Beck also explained that under federal and state telecommunication laws, the city is legally obligated to be non-discriminatory should another cellular provider come in and ask to negotiate with the city for a similar license agreement.
Councilman Rod Sankey asked what would happen if one of the light poles the small cells are attached to was knocked down in an accident. City Engineer Dwayne Haffield responded.
“We are giving them the poles as is, and are not giving them (Verizon) assurances that the poles will be back in 24 or 48 hours in the event of an accident,” Haffield explained. “We are confident that the electric department will do what they can, and we will not be taking any extraordinary measures for Verizon.”

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