HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – A future of better cell service signal is here, which means quicker data speeds for cellphone users. But, not everyone around the Front Range is necessarily on board.
Some homeowners in Highlands Ranch are pushing to slow down a plan to install dozens of 4G small cells for Sprint. In a letter to the Douglas County Commissioners, the President of the Highlands Ranch Community Association estimates the number of towers could eventually rise to the thousands when 5G technology comes to town.
Right beside Manuel Trujillo’s home is a reminder of what’s to come. It’s a neon marker next to his mailbox, which he’s been informed will be a future 5G cell tower.
“It is very close to our fence. Don’t know exactly how big it’s going to be or what it’s going to be doing,” Trujillo said.
It’s one of 42 new towers waiting on approval by Douglas County, 30 of which could be in or near Highlands Ranch neighborhoods just like Trujillo’s.
Both Sprint and Boulder-based-Zayo group, who would work together on the installation, maintain the small cells are only for 4G at this point. According to a spokesperson for Sprint, 5G is only being deployed in 9 major U.S. cities.
5G small cells use higher frequencies within the wave bands, which carry more data at quicker speeds than past generations. They also carry less distance, so more antenna sites are needed.
Small cells are often built on top of light poles or buildings.
Still, Trujillo and many others have concerns.
“The health concerns and then what it’s going to do to my property value, having that cell tower so close to the house,” Trujillo said about his concerns.
It’s a sentiment shared by the president of the Highlands Ranch Community Association who wrote a letter to Douglas County Commissioners asking them to evaluate the situation earlier this year.
Soon, the county will make a decision.
“Douglas County, and frankly any other county or city in the entire country, does not have the authority to say we are not allowing you to do this because we have health concerns,” said Denver attorney Ken Fellman, who specializes in telecommunications.
According to Fellman, cities and counties can have a say in how the towers look, but state and federal law make it near-impossible to stop telecommunication companies from expanding their 5G services.
“These networks need more capacity. That’s really what 5G is going to bring,” Fellman said. “The question is, can it be done safely and can it be done in a way that preserves the aesthetics of our communities. Local governments are working on the aesthetics part and I hope the FCC will work on the safety part.”
Sprint and Boulder-based Zayo Group are behind the installation of these towers. A spokesperson sent CBS4 the following statement:
Our goal is to assist our customers to improve wireless service and provide better connectivity for the residents of Douglas County and Highlands Ranch. Site locations are not finalized until feasibility and design process are completed in collaboration with local authorities. In selecting sites, Zayo complies with all federal, state and local requirements and works diligently with local authorities to enable a win/win process.
If you are a Highlands Ranch resident and want to learn more about the 5G tower proposal, you can visit hrcaonline.org/hrca-news/cell-tower-concerns-5g.
Correction: CBS4 previously reported the proposal was for 5G towers, based on documents from the HRCA. Since the airing of the story, both Sprint and Zayo Group have said the plan involves 4G small cells.