The Honolulu City Council is putting the brakes on a proposal to improve cellphone coverage and generate millions in non-taxpayer revenue.
The first smart phone was introduced in 2007. Since then, nearly half of Hawai’i households are wireless-cell-phones only. AT&T representative, Ken Lyons, briefed the Honolulu City Council Budget Committee on a proposal to mount small cell antennas on city-owned light poles to increase current capacity.
“The antenna is located at the top of the pole. There’s a radio, that’s kind of a small box that’s just beneath the antenna and there’s a shut-off switch and a couple of ancillary things that are mounted directly to the pole. Based our preliminary engineering analysis, we’re having to replace each pole that we propose to be able to support, structurally, the weight that’s being proposed.”
Each antenna would increase the wireless bandwidth and download speed within a 500 foot radius. AT&T has estimated that 350-plus poles would be needed on O’ahu and is willing to pay the City $1-thousand to $2-thousand a month for the use of each pole. But, Committee Vice Chair, Kimberly Pine, did not like the pole design.
“I’m just looking at your proposed Honolulu design example and I see that there’s boxes down here? It’s very faint. Are these boxes down here? I’m sorry, I just don’t feel comfortable with this, chair, at all. I see in the future that where every single pole has these boxes sticking out and, I mean, I don’t find that to be acceptable to me, to be honest with you.”
The boxes cover electrical cut-off switches to protect repair and maintenance workers. Committee Chair Trevor Ozawa also raised the design issue.
“That was the number one concern I had, was these ‘franken poles’ and I was told that the mayor’s, apparently, he’s concerned with that too but I wouldn’t know.”
The City’s Department of Facilities Maintenance will partner with AT&T and Director and Chief Engineer Ross Sasamura says the final design will be vetted.
“The application process that we actually have in place already within the City and County of Honolulu, it’s a 19-step process. One of the processes does involve neighborhood board presentations to every neighborhood board that’s affected by installations.”
Committee Chair Ozawa delayed a committee vote on the resolution and asked AT&T to meet with each Councilmember. He said it might be voted on before the full Council if approved by the Council Chair.
“AT&T wanted something to be passed out before the middle of January when the fees will be going up based on a directive by the FCC. I wasn’t aware of that but at the same time, our first priority here is to ensuring that we’re comfortable with it.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.