Town Council Looking at Ways to Regulate Cell Network Antennas

An illustration used in an addendum to AT&T’s application showing the amount of RF fields at different distances around a cell antenna. The White arrow shows the less than 0.5 percent shown

New rules passed by the FCC limit how much control local governments have over cellular antennas going up in their communities, including using health risks to deny applications, but the Watertown Town Council is looking at ways of regulating them. Tuesday night, the Council’s Public Works subcommittee discussed ways to control what the cell antennas look like and how close they can be to homes. The subcommittee also looked at the cell antenna installations as a way to require better utility pole installation and maintenance in Watertown. The Council called the meeting after the Town began receiving applications to install antennas for cell carriers’ new 5G networks.

Council Subcommittee Will Discuss Proposal to Put Cell Antennae in Watertown

The Town Council’s Public Works Subcommittee will delve into the proposal to install cell phone antennae in Watertown at a meeting in January. In November, the Council heard a proposal from ExteNet Systems to install small antennae on utility poles in two locations in Watertown — one at 171 Palfey Street and one at 550 Arsenal Street. Several residents opposed the installation of the antennae, and expressed about potential health hazards from them.

The requested for the antennae is being made to upgrade the cellular network in town to 5G. New rules adopted by the FCC make the approval process for cell antennae shorter, and with fewer restrictions.

Residents Fired Up Over Proposed Cell Phone Antennae in Watertown

Residents came out to express their concerns to the Town Council about proposed cell phone antennae in two locations in Watertown. The concern is not just about possible health concerns from having a cell antenna near homes, but also about the new regulations that make it more difficult for communities to deny new cell phone antenna locations. Keenan Brinn, representing ExteNet — which is petitioning for the antennae — said the company seeks to put up one antenna on a utility pole at 141 Palfrey Street and one on a pole at 550 Arsenal Street. The company also seeks to put one near the main intersection of Watertown Square, in the vicinity of Charles River Road, but that falls under the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s jurisdiction. “ExteNet is interested in building out the fifth generation cellular network, otherwise know as 5G,” Brinn said.