Wireless technology continues to advance, and with it comes the proliferation of cellphone towers.
With that in mind, during a meeting Feb. 15, Rehoboth commissioners gave City Manager Sharon Lynn permission to move forward with hiring Pittsburgh-based Cohen Law Group to create an ordinance for the city addressing the installation of wireless technology throughout the city.
Lynn said large cell towers installed in the late 1990s aren’t being phased out, but more new small cell sites are needed to capture more of the population and to handle all the different devices being connected to the internet – cell phones, tablets, watches.
Lynn said the Cohen Law Group works exclusively on telecommunication ordinances and she said she learned of them through her City Manager Association group. Lynn said the cost is $250 an hour, not to exceed $5,000, and at the end there would be an ordinance for the commissioners to review.
Wireless technology providers are regularly contacting the city to expand their range.
Earlier in the meeting, Lynn said the city had given permission to Verizon to temporarily reinstall antennas on the water tower next to the city hall parking lot. This is the second summer in row Verizon has installed cell phone antennas on the water tower. In 2017, Verizon set up a Cell on Wheels next to the water tower.
Within the past two months, AT&T has installed five cellphone towers throughout the commercial area – two on Rehoboth Avenue, one on top of the visitor center at the end of Boardwalk and Delaware Avenue, one on the Boardwalk at the end of Baltimore Avenue and one at the intersection of Wilmington Avenue and First Street. AT&T approached the city for permission to install two more, but commissioners decided to wait until a comprehensive plan was created.
Rehoboth commissioners asked Lynn to look into this issue in October, and Commissioner Lisa Schlosser was perhaps the one pushing the issue the most. She said if Rehoboth were to move forward with this it would be one of the first cities to have an ordinance that complies with new federal regulations. In September, in the name of increasing 5G infrastructure, the Federal Communication Commission issued a declaratory ruling taking away local government powers related to fees charged to wireless providers, locations of new cells and time frame to municipalities had to approve or deny cell requests. She added an ordinance would also create a level playing field for all telecom providers and have standards in place to maintain the aesthetics of the city.
“This is a really big opportunity for our town, because what this will ultimately give us, once we get the ordinance and standards in place, is access to the latest wireless technology,” said Schlosser. “I’m in support of moving forward with this as soon as possible, quite frankly, so we can start to get some new cool stuff in to the town and provide better services.”