Ocean City Today

Communications versus ugly poles

Apr 13, 2017



printed 04/14/2017


It’s a wireless world these days, with anyone who has a smartphone capable of tapping into vast communications networks few people dreamed of 10 or 15 years ago.

The technology, as complex as it is, seems clean, efficient and relatively harmless. Yet, here we are, with this elegant telecommunications solution leading to another batch of inelegant utility poles.

Crown Castle, one of the nation’s largest providers of communications infrastructure, can dress them up anyway it wants, but they’re still ugly metal stanchions dotting the already cluttered landscape.

Not much can be done about it, as the City Council knows, because Crown Castle is a public utility and is therefore allowed by the Public Service Commission to plant its devices in the public right of way. Some restrictions do apply, as the council demonstrated this week when it refused to allow the company to erect a series of poles on the Boardwalk.

It just seems ironic, though, that all these technical advances haven’t done much to improve the scenery. It’s bad enough that portions of Coastal Highway, with those looming power pole monoliths, look like the driveway to the Defense Department. And the resort’s new beachball water tank? Festooned with dozens of receivers and transmitters on top, it looks more like a NORAD installation than it does a warm howdy to visitors. And now, we have more poles.

Maybe it’s a good thing that everyone seems to be looking down at their devices these days. That way, they don’t have to look up and see the proliferation of hardware that’s spreading like kudzu.

City Councilman Dennis Dare was right when he said the growth of cell communications networks could mean that Crown Castle’s effort won’t be the only one the council will have to deal with in the years ahead.

Although Crown Castle says it has the capacity to handle additional companies, it doesn’t mean that other carriers will be required to use it. And because the PSC more or less gives telecommunications companies easy access to rights of way, other companies could easily apply.

The council can only do so much. Maybe the PSC and the General Assembly should revisit this technological explosion and begin to think about installing some brakes.


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