Commentary

printed 03/01/2019

As one cell phone-related company prepares to plant its short towers all over Ocean City, and AT&T is looking for a home for its larger seasonally operated cell tower, it’s time for some agency farther up the governmental food chain to establish standards that recognize the needs of the community.

For all practical purposes, local authorities don’t have much control over the appearance or placement of these devices, which are regulated — if that’s the right word — by the Federal Communications Commission.

Neither does city government have much say over the number of companies that can’t swoop into town and start adding their devices to a streetscape already spiked with landline poles, power poles and light poles.

Before long, Ocean City will start looking more like a pin cushion, or a military eavesdropping operation, than it does a family resort, and there’s nothing much that can be done about it, so far.

As City Councilman Dennis Dare said during a recent council meeting, the inability of local government to limit the number of cell tower operators by virtue of an exclusivity agreement, means, “instead of having one pole in front of your house, you could have two poles.”

Granted, Ocean City has more important matters than that to deal with, but what the FCC has done in encouraging the growth of the country’s wireless network is create a land rush situation that invites providers to do as much as they can as quickly as they can to lock down the best spots.

No consideration is given to the appearance of these devices, there’s no standard model, and there’s no local planning effort that can touch them.

In other words, this situation is not going to improve until some greater governmental authority directs the FCC to recognize that its wireless network strategy, if it has one, can’t be one size fits all.

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