Almost everyone agrees that Georgetowners increasingly depend on our mobile phones and other wireless devices to do our personal, professional and leisure activities around town. Or, rather, we depend on good, fast, dependable, capable, efficient and immediate connectivity.
That is why the District has developed a new project to provide faster data coverage and increased capacity. According to D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the Small Cell Facilities Project will institute a more efficient and streamlined process for vendors to install wireless communications facilities on poles throughout the city, improving the quality of wireless service throughout.
It seems inevitable that small cell technology — variously pictured as big and small boxes with a tangle of wires emanating from them — is coming to a utility pole in Georgetown near you, and soon. At least five providers with executed master license agreements are expected to file applications for permits through the District Department ofTransportation’s Online Permitting System, known as TOPS.
The system “will consider the aesthetic and safety impacts of Small Cells, as well as the District’s technical specifications for such devices,” according to the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, once those have been determined. The master license agreement requires the providers to adhere to the public right-of-way accord. It also outlines (or will outline) requirements related to construction and maintenance activities; design, technical and siting standards for small cells; and costs associated with such facilities.
But Georgetowners and other D.C. residents are already raising concerns. “We are hearing worries from residents about the distribution density of the technology on poles, construction and maintenance details, design and appearance specifications and technical and siting standards,” said Joe Gibbons, chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E. “Others cite concern about public health effects.”
A town meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. at the City Tavern Club, 3206 M St. NW, sponsored by the ANC 2E, the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the Georgetown Business Improvement District. Spokespersons from the project, which is being facilitated by the District Department of Transportation, the Office of Public-Private Partnerships and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, are expected to attend.
“It will provide an opportunity for members of the public to learn more about the project, ask questions and offer feedback,” Gibbons said at the ANC 2E meeting on Sept. 5.
The five companies with executed master license agreements are Verizon, Crown Castle, AT&T, Mobilitie and ExteNet Systems.