Cell companies look to improve service in Summit

Caddie Nath

Summit Daily file photo

The Summit Board of County Commissioners gave the nod for AT&T to apply for a new cellular tower at the landfill, which officials say would extend coverage into Summit Cove if constructed.

The application would reportedly propose an 80-foot structure on county-owned property along Highway 6 that would improve cell phone service in nearby neighborhoods as well as the Keystone area, planning officials said.

Parts of Summit Cove are currently dead zones for AT&T customers, who are not always able to make calls or use data in the area.

County commissioners said they hoped the company would also allow other cellular providers to use the site, if the project is approved.

“We’ve talked about concerns moving forward,” Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “We want to make sure there’s co-location that’s reasonable, not co-location and you have to pay.”

The application is the latest development in an ongoing push by cellular providers to extend and improve coverage along the Interstate 70 corridor and in Summit County. AT&T constructed a new tower at Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge in 2010 to improve service that was faltering during the peak season, when the existing infrastructure became overloaded. The new tower improved 3G service by 450 percent and doubled the network’s carrying capacity in the area, according to a statement from the company released when the structure was completed.

Verizon Wireless is also moving forward with a new 60-foot monopine cell tower in Keystone’s Mountain View Plaza condominium subdivision. The structure, which the Snake River Planning Commission approved in April, will replace six existing roof-mounted antennas.

But ongoing efforts to expand cell service in the Lower Blue River Basin are stalled again, after yet another deal potential tower site on private property fell through, county officials said.

“It’s really frustrating because it’s such a desperate need,” Stiegelmeier said.

Extending coverage north of Silverthorne, where it is almost nonexistent, has been a top priority of residents in the area for several years, but numerous proposals for towers at various locations have hit roadblocks. One potential site was abandoned after a nearby resident threatened to sue. Another spot, close to the Pebble Creek Ranch community, had support from homeowners in the area, but scuttled after a technical analysis showed a signal shadow would have fallen on Highway 9.

The area community members in the Lower Blue hope to see get cell phone coverage would likely require three cellphone towers and the structures are expensive —in the neighborhood of $500,000 to $1 million in total costs according to county officials. New towers are usually driven by the number of subscribers who will use the site, Summit County emergency manager Joel Cochran said, which are lacking in the rural Lower Blue area.

“Basically it’s the airtime traffic and billable minutes they can get off of those towers,” Cochran said. “It’s all about their business model for maintaining their product and their brand. That Lower Blue conversation spins around that.”

The timeline on both the Verizon Wireless and AT&T towers is not yet clear.

Former SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun contributed to the reporting of this story.

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