Expanding cell phone coverage in Woodstock is a challenge

Expanding cellular and broadband service through the western end of town is not an easy proposition, a wireless consulting company representative told the Woodstock Town Board at its June 18 business meeting. “The topography of the area that makes it beautiful makes it difficult to get cell coverage,” said Brendan Delaney of Advanced Network Services in Albany.

Adding to the difficult terrain is the lower population as the cell signal fades west of Bearsville, making providers think hard about complex studies and designs to provide coverage. “All that costs additional time and money for the carriers,” Delaney said. “There are not enough people.”

Population is the same issue for high-speed internet access in the home, he said. His firm has determined there is fiber-optic cable running through town on the utility poles, but it is less accessible to the more rural parts of town. The hurdle is the so-called last mile, the stretch between the lines on the road and the home, he explained. Providers do not consider it cost-effective to connect homes to the main lines if there aren’t a lot of customers.

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To get cell coverage in the western part of town in any reliable way will likely require multiple lower-power transmission sites mounted on utility poles because the line-of-sight nature of cell signals make a traditional 200-foot-tall tower ineffective. “That’s what’s going to get you into the hollows,” Delaney said.

He suggested the town hire a firm like his Advanced Network Services to conduct a feasibility study to come up with ways to extend service. The company conducting the study can then act as a liaison between the town and carriers to create a network.

Responding to a concern from residents about the health effects of 5G, the newest wireless technology, Delaney said it likely won’t be rolled out to a community Woodstock’s size for 8-10 years. There may be a version of 5G that works on the same frequency as current wireless technology, buy the extreme high speeds require higher frequencies that don’t travel as far, so are suited for more urban settings, he said.

Delaney said he is not overly concerned about electromagnetic radiation dangers of current technology.

“Of everything available today, I have not found studies that give me pause,” he said.

A new committee was formed to address communications matters with Jerry Washington as temporary chair. The meeting schedule has not been announced.

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