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Posted on: July 11, 2017

MBTA WiFi Proposed Cell Phone Towers

The Board of Selectmen continues to focus on the MBTA's plan to erect 74' Wi-Fi and cell phone towers in Manchester, including identified locations at 17 Boardman Ave., 6 Tuck’s Point Road, 21 Summer Street, and a potential fourth but unnamed location on MBTA property in town.

Due to coordinated resident and formal town opposition, specifically from the Towns of Manchester and Andover, the MBTA recently implemented a 30 day suspension of the 74' wifi and cell tower plan.

The decision was made by the Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB), appointed by Governor Baker. The FMCB has emerged as one of the best focal points for resident and town opposition to the MBTA's 74' Wi-Fi and cell tower plans.

The FMCB has ultimate power to enforce oversight and increase accountability in the way the MBTA operates. By definition the FMCB has a goal to "target governance, finance, agency structure and operations through recommended executive and legislative actions that embrace transparency and develop stability in order to earn public trust".

At the last FMCB meeting in Boston, the Board acknowledged the concerns and questions raised by a large number of community residents and local town leadership. They further recommended investigation into the details of the MBTA's plan and agreements with private 3rd parties positioned to financially benefit from the erection of the towers in Manchester and throughout the MBTA train network in much of MetroWest and northeastern Massachusetts. The FMCB was planning to revisit questions and action items at the next Board meeting scheduled for July 17th. However, the next planned FMCB meetings on July 17th and 24th were cancelled, making the July 31st FMCB meeting the next opportunity for public input. Manchester town administration will be present to further voice the town's opposition to the 74' Wi-Fi and cell tower plans.

Through collaborative efforts of the Town and residents there is continued investigation of the state and federal regulatory compliance of the MBTA to determine whether there has been sufficient historic and environmental review and consideration of Town and regional impact with the MBTA's plans.

In addition, there is communication and collaboration among towns in the region affected by the MBTA's plans. The Town of Manchester has reached out to or been contacted by nearly a dozen towns already who are just beginning to realize the impacts to their towns and residents. In addition to efforts within Manchester to address the MBTA's plans, there will be Town interest and participation in the regional efforts developing to oppose the MBTA's plans at the regional level, including a proposed summit of towns in Andover in August.

There are also efforts to coordinate with resident experts in telecommunications and cellular technology to identify alternative means to best serve Wi-Fi needs of MBTA passengers. Improving Wi-Fi service to MBTA passengers is a worthwhile service to pursue, but the way that this service is made available is something that can be achieved through different solutions. Any residents with expertise in cellular technology or telecommunications are encouraged to contact the Board of Selectman.

With advances in wireless technology rapidly evolving, there is emerging technology to turn individual cellphones into more powerful telecommunications networks. The telecomm carriers themselves also have incentive to push out more robust network capability, including Verizon poised to begin rolling out 5G networks in selected markets this year. Google, Facebook, and Amazon are also all building out their own fiber-optics cable networks rather than looking to networks of cell and Wi-Fi towers. These are all examples of dramatic improvements to Wi-Fi and cell service that are happening now, and do not require construction of 74' towers that are tied to a 22 year contract that Manchester and other towns will have to live with for decades to come.

Please send any comments, letters, thoughts, concerns to our new email mbtainfo@manchester.ma.us 

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