Cell Service Reliability Along Ocean Ave. To Be Surveyed

November 2, 2017
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Small, low-voltage antenna, sometimes known as small cells or microcells, are are typically mounted on street lights or utility poles to bring wireless signals into areas that need better coverage or more capacity. Photo courtesy Verizon Wireless

By Liz Sheehan |

SEA BRIGHT – The Borough Council has approved a resolution giving the go-ahead to Verizon Wireless and the borough’s engineer, T&M Associates, to conduct a survey to determine where network nodes, or mini-antennas, could be placed on utility poles to improve cell service in portions of the borough where reception is poor.

Verizon has a temporary cell tower behind Borough Hall and is in the process of installing a permanent tower there.

Frank Lawrence, administrative assistant for special projects for the borough, said Tuesday that no formal action was taken to approve the proposal to install the nodes. The resolution only allows Verizon to develop a plan and submit it to the mayor and council, he said.

Lawrence said the idea for a proposal came out of a meeting with a number of utilities concerning improving resiliency in towns like the borough in case of storms and to plan for growth in cell service use.

He said some people have problems with their cell service now and the problems increase in the summer when there are more cars, boats and people in the town using cell service.

Councilman Charles Rooney III, who lives in the North Beach section of the town near Sandy Hook, said residents in his area and other sections of the town keep land lines to use in case of an emergency because the cell service is unreliable.

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He said he pays extra to have a land line. “If there is an emergency, I don’t want to pick up a cell phone and get no service,” Rooney said. He also said he has been on the phone in the downtown area and lost cell service.

Rooney said he has been told that having the ocean and river bordering the borough causes the problems with cell service. Councilman John Lamia Jr. also said the bodies of water surrounding the town affect cell reception.

And he questioned if the temporary tower is helping reception. Lamia said he would like to test the tower by checking cell signal strength through the number of bars on his phone and then having the tower turned off temporarily to recheck signal strength.

Chris Doxey, who lives on Church Street in the downtown area, said when she speaks to her neighbor across the street for around 15 minutes the cell phone goes out several times. “I’m always afraid I will lose my call,” she said. “It’s very, very annoying.”

She said she uses her land line for any communication with banks, the Social Security Administration, or other calls where she doesn’t want to risk having the call dropped. Doxey said the cell phone usually works for calls to her daughter, who lives in another state, but to be safe she uses her land line for calls to her that are important.

“I don’t get any cell service in here,” said Ann Quinn, who works in Alice’s Kitchen on Ocean Avenue near Church Street.

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“That would be great if they would put something on the poles” to improve the service, she said.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities has issued a report to guide municipalities concerning the installation of wireless systems, such as the nodes proposed by Verizon.

Michael Darcy, the executive director of the group, said Tuesday that if a municipality approves the installation of the nodes by a company they should “set the ground rules to apply to everybody.”

Examples of regulations that could be in the approval are how many nodes can be installed per block, or how many poles may be installed within a certain distance so as not to create a cluster of poles. Another possible regulation, he said, would be limiting the height of poles that might be installed to hold the nodes.

If there are no regulations set for the company that places the first installation of the nodes, he said, the municipalities would not be able to set rules for subsequent installations by other companies.

David Weissmann, a spokesperson for Verizon Wireless, said Tuesday that there are nodes now in Long Branch, Eatontown and Matawan.

This article was first published in the Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.

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