Lower Blue not giving up on getting cell tower
It’s been about two years since Lower Blue River Valley residents began working to fix the gap in cellphone coverage that extends north of Silverthorne to Green Mountain Reservoir – and nothing has happened yet. What Friends of the Blue River Valley thought was a hopeful lead at the end of September turned out to be fraught with political objection, when a resident of the proposed installation area threatened to sue. Another location came with unanimous support from the nearby Pebble Creek Ranch community, but technical analysis showed its location had a signal shadow that blocked out part of Highway 9. It was dismissed as a possibility. Now, the group members have their eyes on another location they think will work, but Friends of the Blue River Valley president Sam Kirk isn’t ready to release that location. “We thought it was a slam dunk at Pebble Creek,” Kirk said about the second of two locations that was dismissed. “We don’t foresee problems politically or physically, but who are we as laypeople to make that kind of judgment?”He and the others were also surprised recently when they learned the area they’re seeking to cover would likely require three cell towers. “When we’re having so much trouble with one … that was a blow in the gut,” Kirk said. The group first explored the possibility of boosting the current Verizon signal, and redirecting the tower serving the Silverthorne area. The boost wasn’t deemed feasible and redirecting the existing tower would negatively affect coverage in other areas.
Joel Cochran, Summit County’s emergency manager, has noted that cell sites are extremely expensive and are driven by the number of subscribers using the tower. Companies seem unlikely to invest in bringing service to extremely rural areas, he added. Kirk’s group is pursuing the cellphone tower from a safety perspective – ensuring everyone can be notified in all manners possible if a disaster strikes. The effort also has support from the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Summit Board of County Commissioners, who both see cellphone coverage as a way to boost economic growth in the area. “It’s one of the largest holes without cell service in the county,” Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said in September. “It’s about safety, emergency, response and communication – it’s also an economic issue.” Advocates are now trying to work directly with Fidelity, the company Kirk said installs the towers and with whom a tower is contracted. They then lease the service to providers. Kirk sees the direct relationship as potentially more efficient than working with AT&T. “One has to be very tenacious to make any progress on rural cell service,” Stiegelmeier said. Kirk said the issue is still pending and on the radar. “We’ve been following this and trying to advocate for it,” he said. “(Getting a tower) is hopeful in that we will continue to pursue it until we get a stonewall.”
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