The People are Speaking (Listen Up!)

Paint the picture - literally - when faced with community concern.

Paint the picture – literally – when faced with community concern.

As fans of Inside Towers and major users of Google News Alerts, we’ve noticed a growing trend in recent months: the public is paying more attention than ever to wireless infrastructure.

Recent news from Florida (Plant City and Tampa, namely), and other venues indicates that municipal codes are very much in play. Residents are asking their elected officials and volunteers to help structure a response to the public’s need for signal and speed. Shelburne, Massachusetts voters recently spoke out against an AT&T tower plan and effectively killed the deal. Company officials demurred a bit about the role residents played, but if history is a guide, the opposition was just too vocal.

So what are we in the wireless industry left to do? Residents are speaking out, even as they text and post and blog from planning commission meetings. They probably don’t see the irony. But we do.

A few thoughts from our seats in the peanut gallery:

  • Embrace civic discourse: we think the days are over when towers go up without much community engagement. So it’s going to be incumbent upon carriers and tower builders to engage the public. Hear them. Respond. Repeat.
  • Think small: Sure, building numerous small cells is a much more expensive proposition than constructing one mega-tower. But if the public’s appetite for super-sized signal is sated, it’s time to think small.
  • Pretty matters: Sure, it’s a little self serving for us to imply that making your infrastructure look good will make it more palatable to the public. But Mary Poppins said it first: a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.
  • Paint a picture: Often, people fear that which is uncertain. Allay their fears with renderings of what the tower will look like – really look like – in their back yard. It’s amazing how a little transparency can pave the way to success.

It’s a Wireless, Wireless, Wireless World

old-phone

Recent news from Inside Towers and other sources indicate that there are few fans remaining of the old land line.

As noted by CNBC, government data indicates 4 out of 10 U.S. households today use cell phones, solely. That’s twice the rate as just 5 years ago. The pace of landline dumping seems to be slowing (perhaps there are few remaining)..but the speculation is that if consumers could un-bundle phone from cable, they’d do it in a skinny minute. The report comes out of the Centers for Disease Control notes there may be some people who never let go of the line. Notes one academic: the landline could become telegrams and beepers.

We just hope they didn’t conduct the survey using landlines! And while that might sound silly, there’s plenty of documentation that researchers were slow to notice the shift to cellular. Failing to notice that, in fact, had one camp believing they would win a recent presidential race, only to find their figures were skewed by technology: the old folks they reached by landline loved their candidate.

And no, we’re not being political – just practical. This report notes even those with landlines at home still receive more than one-third of their calls on wireless devices. Bottom line: wireless infrastructure is not going away. (But we can help make it disappear!)