Nevada County Supervisors Formally Reject Cell Tower On Wildlife Lane

Once again, our supervisors demonstrate they do not understand the critical role that broadband access plays in a digital world, federal and state broadband funding programs, nor the technology used to provide broadband connectivity.

A quote from the article in The Union

Supervisor Heidi Hall said officials must identify areas that need service, not approve a tower because AT&T is “scrambling” to meet a deadline. Instead the county should be methodical in its approach toward increasing cell service.

“These are not high priority locations,” Hall said of Wildlife Lane.

Supervisor Sue Hoek suggested the county perform a study and determine where service is lacking in Nevada County.

CEO Alison Lehman said no such studies exist.

As you can see from the map below,  copied from the CA Interactive Broadband Map, the cross-hatched areas were identified as unserved areas and eligible for Connect America Fund subsidies. From the FCC web site:

The Connect America Fund Phase II (Phase II) is part of the Commission’s reform and modernization of its universal service support programs. In 2018, the Commission conducted an auction (Auction 903) to allocate Phase II support to certain eligible areas across the United States. Auction 903 ran from July 24, 2018 to August 21, 2018. 103 bidders won $1.49 billion over 10 years to provide fixed broadband and voice services to over 700,000 locations in 45 states.

Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 5.43.33 AM

The proposed cell tower in on a high point, the small red circle. The larger circle radius is 6,000 feet or about 1.8 km.

A cell tower range can be far reached about 31 km (19.2 miles). However, cell towers are more likely to work on a max range of about 10 miles (16 km), as after 10 miles the protocol used for cell phone calls become unreliable. In rural areas, the tower’s range usually goes from 2 miles (3.2 km) up to 6 miles (9.6km).

The cell tower coverage area is about twice the circle shown on the map, covering multiple areas identified by the FCC and CPUC as needing some broadband access. The gold colored areas were identified by the CPUC/CASF and are eligible for state funding.

Now to the comments by our supervisors and County Staff

Supervisor Hall: “officials must identify areas that need service” What does she think the CPUC and the FCC have been doing for the last 10 years. According to the CPUC and FCC, the area chosen needs better broadband access, and the AT&T bid was accepted by the FCC and funded, part of a $1.6 Billion program.

Supervisor Hoek: “the county perform a study and determine where service is lacking in Nevada County.” The studies have been down, and the Federal government is providing the funds to provide access.

CEO Alison Lehman: “no such studies exist.” Really? The CPUC funded Gold County Broadband Consortia held public meetings in communities along SR-149 reporting the need for broadband access to the CPUC. Also, the CPUC has conducted cell phone coverage surveys for 5 plus years, and the FCC determines the area was eligible for CAF II funding, how many more studies do we need?

One other issue: AT&T was the contractor for the Public Safety FirstNet:

“FirstNet will provide 20MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout,” AT&T said in its announcement. FirstNet’s spectrum is located in the 700MHz band often used for consumer LTE networks.

AT&T’s contract with FirstNet is 25 years long. “AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the life of the contract to build, deploy, operate and maintain the network, with a focus on ensuring robust coverage for public safety users,” the company said. AT&T will also connect FirstNet users to the company’s existing network.

Did the Supervisors just kill a portion of the FirstNet coverage in Nevada County when they kill a critical infrastructure cell phone tower?

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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