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Data tower approved

May strengthen New London internet service

By Scott Bellile

A mobile data tower will pop up along the Wolf River near downtown New London.

On June 22, the New London Planning Commission approved a request from California-based utility company Mobilitie to install a 55-foot utility pole for 5G data transmission. The project does not require city council approval.

The monopole will be placed at the intersection of Lawrence Street and East South Water Street in the right of way. This is a block east of the post office and next to the building where Familiar Grounds Coffee Shop was originally located.

Mobilitie is in the midst of the regulatory process with the FCC and should be set to install the pole within 90 days, New London Zoning Administrator Paul Hanlon said.

Brent Michalek, a permitting manager for Mobilitie, said the state of Wisconsin views Mobilitie as a public utility. He described the proposed pole as a “fiber optic line in the air.”

Mobilitie is a business-to-business company. It leases pole space to wireless carriers looking to strengthen their mobile internet data signals in a community. The carriers then charge their individual customers who use the data on their smart phones or tablets.

“Why is this needed here?” commissioner Cindy Goller asked Michalek of the pole.

“Well, I wouldn’t be coming here unless the data is needed. … Essentially what we’re seeing is there’s a data drop in this area,” Michalek said.

For now, the pole will mainly service Sprint customers. But Michalek said Mobilitie will own the pole and therefore could negotiate leasing agreements with cell carriers more easily than if Mobilitie attached a pole to a public streetlight as it sometimes does.

The 55-foot monopole will be the size of a telephone pole, Michalek said. Mobilitie had originally proposed a 75-foot pole in New London.

Mobilitie installs all of its poles in public rights of way. While permission from the city is not needed to place a public utility, the company chooses to collaborate with cities to find preferable locations.

The city and Mobilitie first explored other sites downtown, Hanlon said. These included near Marly’s Restaurant at the Pearl Street and Beacon Avenue intersection as well as by the library-owned buildings in the midst of demolition on Pearl Street at Spring Street.

The spot chosen on Lawrence Street will be less noticeable to residents, Hanlon said.

Mayor Gary Henke added: “One of the advantages of this location is basically it’s not a real high-traffic area. I mean, when we were talking about one like up the street across from Marly’s. All you need is a semi coming roaring around the corner and [data service would] be down how many times a year.”

Michalek told the commission Mobilitie monitors its poles’ data loads all over the country. If the need arose for another pole in New London, the company would do it.

Mobilitie is also considering installing a 120-foot pole along County Trunk F in Weyauwega. No plan has been set.

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