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.