Home Europe Time to move on telecommunications ordinances

Time to move on telecommunications ordinances

"Temporary cell towers likes this one at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center were erected last year as an emergency measure to improve cellphone service in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal) "

em041918a/jnorth/The cell phone tower installed in the Genoviva Chavez Community Center parking lot. Photo shot in Santa Fe, Thursday April 189, 2018. Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

It can be hard for the lay or non-technical person to understand the ins and outs of wireless and cellphone businesses.

How can there be a big hole in cellphone coverage smack in the middle of Santa Fe (specifically, the Railyard)? Why does household wireless service come and go?

Some networks offer wholesale-only internet, meaning other providers take the service to your home or business. So even the presence of a wholesale internet network in Santa Fe doesn’t necessarily mean high-speed service for a particular neighborhood.

In December, the mayor, fearing 911 cellphone calls might be dropped, used the city’s Riot Control Ordinance to declare an emergency and erect a dozen temporary cell antennae around town.

Now, Santa Fe appears to be on the verge of making some improvements in our little, apparently out-of-the-way wireless world.

A series of ordinances moving through the City Council approval process should open up more competition in the telecommunications business and, in turn, encourage better service and better rates. The measures would grant rights-of-way franchises to five companies, most of them with local connections. The resulting fees aren’t supposed to be big money-makers for City Hall. The basic idea is to inject more players into a field that has been dominated by CenturyLink.

The proposed ordinances also may mean residents will start seeing more antennae and other equipment on light poles or elsewhere. But those devices will have to undergo a land use review process for height and aesthetics.

The city appears to be required under federal and state law to create a regulated space for small cellular providers to operate on city infrastructure. Regardless of the legal ins and outs, the city needs to move forward on this effort.

Santa Fe seems to be generating some new economies these days, thanks to companies like burgeoning entertainment enterprise Meow Wolf and Descartes Labs, which refines satellite imagery to analyze things like weather and crop yields.

The city needs a telecommunications infrastructure that can encourage these kinds of innovative businesses, or at least provide the types of wireless service that prospective employees expect even for their private lives. And it also would just be nice to be able to check for text messages on your phone in the Railyard.

Santa Fe’s anti-wireless advocates will likely be out in force against the proposed telecommunications ordinances. But the City Council needs to pass these measures intended to expand cell coverage and provide quicker internet speeds.


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