Less Small Cell Equipment in Georgetown?

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As reported in the Sept. 26 issue of The Georgetowner, after numerous town hall and official stakeholder meetings, it seemed inevitable that small cell technology — variously pictured as big and small boxes with a tangle of wires emanating from them — would be coming to not just a few but many utility poles in Georgetown, and soon.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is convinced that the technology will provide efficient and streamlined connections for everyone in the District to 5G wireless broadband, once that technology is developed.

Five competing licensees have presented different sized and designed devices to be installed within 300 feet of homes and business throughout Georgetown. At review meetings this fall, some Georgetown residents complained that all the proposed devices were too ugly, too short (some reaching two stories high would be seen directly from bedroom windows), too wide and too visible.

Concern about the impact of all these boxes on Georgetown’s tight but charming urban viewscapes was continually raised. “We just don’t want them,” several town hall attendeeswere heard to mutter. “Tell the city no,” some said.

But now it turns out that Verizon, one of the competing licensees, has proposed to the Commission of Fine Arts to install 5G facilities on multiple rooftops of commercial properties in Georgetown.

“This conclusively establishes that rooftop installations are a feasible and practical alternative to street poles in the public space,” states a resolution approved by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E on Oct. 29. “This alternative minimizes adverse impacts on our streetscapes.”
Verizon also confirmed that the range of the 5G roof facilities is 2,000 to 3,000 feet — much greater than the 300 feet previously stated.

“We urge that the Draft Small Cell Design Guidelines be modified to provide that poles can only be used in public space to deploy 5G technology, if an applicant establishes that no rooftop space within the range necessary to provide 5G coverage is available,” reads the ANC resolution in part. “We also urge that reductions be made in the number of 5G facilities permitted per block … to reflect that the range is actually between 2,000 and 3,000 feet.”

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