Wellesley’s Municipal Light Plant is hosting a webinar on June 25 from 7-8:30pm to get the word out about plans to mount AT&T small cell antennas on more than 40 poles around town in an effort to boost wireless service. AT&T reps and radiation safety specialist Donald Haes, Jr., will be part of the program, and residents can submit questions in advance to have them addressed before the installation is set to begin this summer.
Leading up to this event, residents are calling attention to the town’s small antenna plans and urging others to study up. They’ve hit up town meeting members and also reached out to us. Iris Lin has already questioned the aesthetics of the pole-mounted antennas during a meeting of the Design Review Board of which she is a member. At that meeting, MLP Director Don Newell said he’s personally visited all the planned antenna locations as the MLP works on “balancing aesthetics with coverage.” The MLP has decreased the size of the antenna shrouds in some cases, he says.
Still, Lin says the town should have done more to give residents and schools residing near the utility poles a heads up about the planned installations in light of health, environmental, property value and aesthetic concerns. Lin cites other communities, such as Burlington and Cambridge that have formed small cell committees and involved public hearings during the process.
Lin posted about the issue Thursday on the What’s Up Wellesley Facebook page, sparking a conversation in which some thanked her for letting them know, some pooh-poohed health concerns, and others celebrated the potential for better cell service. Lin and other neighbors have written to the MLP and Board of Selectmen to register their concerns as well. We happened to be listening to the Natick Board of Selectmen meeting last week when a resident during citizen speak expressed his concerns about an increase in small cells in that town, and urged the BoS to consult with an industry expert.
The small cell antennas in Wellesley would pave the way beyond today’s 4G wireless technology, to use carrier lingo, and toward next-generation 5G wireless that boosts data speeds and has more capacity. We haven’t noticed Wellesley using the term 5G, perhaps intentionally. The small cell antennas are separate from the distributed antenna systems the town has installed in recent years to improve wireless service.