Cell service woes persist in Washington
Published 9:08 am, Saturday, August 15, 2015
Years of struggles to bring cellphone service have been endured to provide help to a huge dead zone in and around Washington Depot.
But residents will have to wait a bit longer, as AT&T has been granted a 12-month extension to put its telecommunication equipment on an already built cell tower.
AT&T had co-applied to the Connecticut Siting Council in 2013 with Homeland Towers, a tower-building company, to construct a 130-foot monopole tower at 10 Blackville Road (Roure 109), a town-owned property in Washington.
Approval was granted, with an 18-month window, in spring 2014. That window expires in September, meaning AT&T would have had to install its equipment on the now-completed tower and start service, or forfeit the right.
However, the Siting Council’s approved a 12-month extension for AT&T, moving the expiration date to September 2016.
In the meantime, some 900 residents and numerous businesses in Washington Depot and nearby remain without cell service and modern business communications access.
“We keep putting pressure on AT&T,” said First Selectman Mark Lyon. “I’ve also contacted Verizon Wireless and let them know the opportunity exists to locate on the tower, which has space for four carriers. But they don’t have build-out funds at this time.”
Ray Vergati, the site development manager with Homeland Towers, said his business is actively pursuing Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint to site on the Blackville Road tower. None is funded to put antennas on the tower. He said the company is also “pushing AT&T.
“AT&T’s service people have told us they expect to have equipment on the tower in 2016,” Vergati said. “At this time, AT&T is spending upward to $100 billion on expansion, buying out Direct TV, purchasing additional spectrum licensing and on work in Mexico.
“It has put a soft hold on build-out in a number of U.S. sites, and Washington is one of them.”
Vergati said he knows telecommunication companies can “fall short on build-out” for a given year and decide to act sooner, placing equipment on an existing tower.
Lyon “is applying a lot of pressure on AT&T, as is the Siting Council,” Vergati said, and, in reference to the Litchfield County Disptach, “the good news is that we know that public safety has installed on the tower.”
In 2011, Verizon Wireless pulled out of a deal to build at the tower at the Blackville Road site due to a shortfall in its development budget. At that time, the town was in discussions with AT&T, which expected to be the first telecommunication company to co-locate on a tower in the town.
A town meeting in March 2013 brought an overwhelming vote of approval for construction of a tower on the Blackville Road site, located by the Washington highway garage.
A lease was signed at the time with Homeland Tower, a wireless infrastructure company, for the 130-foot monopole with space for four carriers.
The tower was completed in October and the utilities were in place by March.