Wednesday July 31, 2013

VERNON -- AT&T apparently is looking to improve its wireless service in the Vernon area.

The Vermont Public Service Board has approved a project proposed by New Cingular Wireless PCS -- doing business as AT&T Mobility -- to place new antennas on an existing tower.

The board, in issuing a certificate of public good for the project, said its impacts on the tower site will be minimal.

"The proposed project will consist of modifications to an existing telecommunications facility that will not increase the height or width of the facility," board members wrote in an order dated July 22.

Furthermore, the project "will not create impervious surfaces surrounding the facility," officials said.

While an AT&T spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, state documents show that the company's upgrades are targeted for a 107-foot-tall "monopine" tower that already stands at 168 Princess Lane in Vernon.

The project includes installation of three panel antennas, each measuring eight feet tall by one foot wide, on that tower. There also will be an equipment cabinet and rack and a replacement power plant placed within the tower's existing equipment shelter, documents show.

The antennas "will not extend vertically above the existing tower and will extend approximately four feet horizontally from the existing tower," the board's final report says.

A certificate of public good means the board has found that a project "will promote the general good of the state." AT&T is not permitted to undertake "any material deviation or substantial change in the project" without the service board's prior approval.

Both AT&T and VTel Wireless have proposed several projects in Windham County recently to upgrade their wireless capabilities. AT&T is focusing on cellular service, while VTel has been promoting its wireless, high-speed Internet service in underserved areas.

In March, AT&T received state approval to build a new, 139-foot-tall tower in South Newfane despite concerns expressed by nearby residents. The tower will provide better coverage in the Dover Road corridor, the company has said.

A similar controversy arose when AT&T proposed a tower in Dover. The company eventually agreed to move the 140-foot-tall tower to a different part of the same property and to camouflage the structure using a monopine design.

The Public Service Board issued a certificate of public good for the Dover project in late June.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.