Conflicts Resolved, Cell Tower Progress Resumes
by Donna Jordan
The Colebrook Chronicle
September 18, 2015
After facing some road blocks for the past few months, the North Country Cell Service and Broadband Initiative, which had expected to be providing cell service to the entire North Country by this summer, appears to be moving forward once again. The owner of the cell tower on Morse Mountain in Groveton told the Chronicle this week that all issues seem to have been resolved.
The tower is owned by Northern Community Investment Corp. (NCIC) of St. Johnsbury, Vt. NCIC turned over “management” of the tower and the site to Eversource Energy who, said Jon Freeman of NCIC, is an organization that can adequately handle the work if there was ever a storm and any poles came down. “We’re too small an organization” to be able to do that, he said. And so now, if a provider wants to be on the cell tower, they need to develop the contract with Eversource, he explained.
NCIC raised the funds to build the tower so that the region could have “as much cellular as possible,” said Freeman. The first provider on that tower was AT&T. This year, the Coos Economic Development Corp. (CEDC) raised funds and coordinated with several other organizations to assist in getting more cell service in portions of the North Country, however, that project grew into a larger effort of providing cell service throughout the entire North Country with an effort to install a new technology called network extenders—a way of expanding the cell signals from tower to tower without the added cost of installing additional satellite dishes.
When the CEDC announced this new plan last March, they determined that the entire region would have cell service within 120 days. That didn’t happen—mainly because not all agreements were signed for the tower sites—but, Freeman said that, after a meeting earlier this week with CEDC, it looks as though everything is once again moving forward.
CEDC’s partners in getting the cell service expanded has included Great North Woods Wireless and TCC Networks, the Northern Borders Regional Commission, who was the major funder for the expansion, the N.H. Division of Resources and Economic Development, the County Commissioners, and CEDC Board members. The project started when the Northern Border Regional Commission had approved a grant for CEDC to install a cell tower near West Dummer, but then the CEDC worked with the Commission to modify that grant, allowing the project to grow from the one tower in West Dummer to a total of four sites (West Dummer, Pittsburg, Errol, Groveton).
CEDC Executive Director Bob DeAngelis stated to the press, “When presented with this option to expand to four sites, and ultimately bring these same services to locations such as Errol, Pittsburg, Milan and Groveton, where there was zero or very limited capability for users, the answer on whether or not to pursue this option was an easy one. The reason to expand to four sites had everything to do with giving Coos County constituents much more expanded capabilities.” The modified plan intended to take advantage of some existing towers for two of the four sites (Milan Hill and Groveton). Great North Woods Wireless (GNWW) and TCC Networks were to lease space on those towers. New towers would be erected in Pittsburg and Errol.
After completion of these first four towers, 10 more sites are planned in in the next phase of installations, which would continue to fill communication gaps in the county. The bulk of the equipment needed for the first four towers has been received by CEDC and a schedule is now in place for the installation. According to DeAngelis, FCC licensing for the Cellular AWS FCC Licenses has been approved, and the FCC PCS licensing is imminent. Roaming agreements for major carriers are in progress so that many phones will work when this project is completed, rather than those phones that are just 4G LTE or limited to just one carrier such as AT&T in Groveton.
Lastly, lease agreements were required from the land owners in the case of Pittsburg and Errol and the tower owner in the case of Milan Hill and Morse Mountain in Groveton to install the cellular network equipment. This past Tuesday, the last lease agreement needed—for the Groveton tower--was approved by both the CEDC board and the tower owner, NCIC. Freeman told the Chronicle that CEDC is anticipating providing service from customers like Verizon and other carriers of the region. “CEDC is supposed to have agreements worked out with them,” he said. “Our side is done; they have to build (the network extenders), they have to test, and then they have to turn it on.”
The new project completion date for three sites is now the end of October to beginning November, said DeAngelis of the CEDC. CEDC has not yet provided a projected completion date for the Groveton Morse Mountain tower.
WMRR Note: Once
the Phase 1 of the project is completed and roaming agreements are signed, cell
coverage on our northernmost trails will significantly improve. This is great
news in terms of public safety.