Clement: Inside LI’s Cell Tower Debate

As seen in Long Island Business News, March 16, 2012

How many cell towers does an island need?

New cell tower construction always seems to be on an agenda around here. That makes sense given the Island’s notorious dead zones, coupled with the public’s insatiable appetite for wireless connectivity.

Of course, if you’re looking to purposely drop a scheduled call, head over to a variety of places on along the North and South shores – the closer to the water, the better. Hopping on the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway is a surefire way to “accidentally” hang up on someone, and Woodbury Road’s many twists and turns in the Cold Spring Harbor area can turn one phone call into an endless game of telephone tag. In short, if you want to be out of range for a day, there are plenty of places from which to choose – even before we add in the Island’s more than 120 golf courses.

People’s want for wireless continues to increase as technology evolves. As new iGadgets hit the stores, the need for fast, reliable wireless connectivity is bordering on an addiction. If you don’t think that’s true, consider this: When’s the last time anyone mentioned 3G without snickering?

AT&T recently reported its wireless data traffic has increased 20,000 percent over the past five years. For that, thank a smartphone near you.

Yet, despite the seemingly insatiable appetite for wireless, the topic of cell towers is a highly unpopular one. Right now, Kings Park is “discussing” what Centerport slammed, Lake Ronkonkoma is irked by and Hempstead so resolutely shot down that it set new standards for cell tower construction.

The strength of the NIMBYs’ argument is twofold: health concerns and quality of life.

Interestingly, no studies have proven adverse health conditions arise from cell towers and, recently, an attempt to correlate cancer in children caused by proximity to cell towers proved false. So unfounded is the purported health issue that the Federal Communications Commission will not entertain it as a valid reason to stop cell tower construction.

Since Long Island is already home to more than 10,000 cell towers, that seems to further weaken the health argument. So too, the quality of life issue that politicians and neighbors now use in place of the health argument. While it’s true an unsightly looking cell tower in someone’s backyard may diminish property values, won’t those same properties soon suffer the same fate from being situated inside dead zones?

Jaci Clement is executive director of the Fair Media Council and a regular contributor to Long Island Business News. She may be reached at [email protected]

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