Now twenty years into the twenty-first century, the cell phone/smartphone is an important tool for everyone. Every day we all now rely on these devices for banking, work, communication, social media, and even things like paying for Starbucks. Some households don’t even have landlines anymore. Cell phone coverage on the east end, although much better than it was, is still challenging. Often while driving calls go in and out, or the device says “no coverage” at all.
To get clarity on what is being done and why the present situations exist we went to the top of east end leadership. N.Y. State Assemblyman for the First District Fred Thiele, along with East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, were kind enough to share their thoughts exclusively with hamptons.com for this report.
Assemblyman Thiele said, “Cell phone coverage on the East End has had its issues for many years, with gaps in service in many geographic areas and additional stresses on service during peak summer periods. Those concerns have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The growth in population and the increased use of seasonal homes over the last two years have further demonstrated the need for additional communications infrastructure in the region, not just for emergency services, but for daily life. We must plan for the future. As the Chair of the Assembly Local Governments Committee, I believe those decisions are best made by local governments, within the context of a comprehensive plan. There is no place for heavy-handed state mandates that usurp local authority. Local government is best equipped to work through the conflicts that often arise in siting this needed infrastructure.”
That being said, of course, the leaders of the two towns of the south fork of the east end weighed in with their view of the situation.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc explained things from his vantage point when he said, “We are working with our Town attorneys and outside consultants City Scape to update the town’s wireless code, which is currently outdated and does not reflect several changes in FCC regulations. We will likely reorganize all wireless regs into a separate code chapter with land use boards still having review authority. In addition to code updates, we will continue working on a wireless master plan with the goal of improving service throughout the town. Our Town-wide survey results should show overwhelming support for better service. Our task is to figure out how to reach this goal.”
Also realizing the importance of the situation is Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman who said, “The world has changed. People are dependent on cellular communications for everything from calling 911 to streaming video on their phones. A lot of people are working from home and need reliable cell service. There are too many dead zones throughout the Hamptons where service is sporadic or non-existent. But it is still difficult to site new cell towers. There is always opposition because of visual impacts, and the regulatory structure is challenging. I’m hoping with the rollout of 5G, we will have improved service without the visual issues associated with cell towers. The 5G infrastructure is much closer to the ground.”
It may be logical to conclude that the “not on my block,” issue is somewhat of a reason for the lack of cell towers being erected all over to fill the need. Hopefully, the new 5G reality at hand will help efficient capacity rise. Obviously, the community leaders of the east end know the problem and are working on it.