Letters: Milan cell tower needed for safety

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After reading your Aug. 14 article on Verizon’s proposed cell phone tower in Milan, I would like to add my own thoughts to this discussion.

Joseph Grotto claimed at the Milan planning board hearing that all of the local residents had ample service. Really, Mr. Grotto? Have you asked the residents of Turkey Hill Road and all of the people residing within the dead zones that appear on Verizon’s coverage maps?

There is a device called a Network Extender that will give you cell service within your home, but at the same time it will also give you a false sense of security. Basically, these network extenders need all three parts of a triangle consisting of electrical power, an Internet signal and a clear signal path to a GPS satellite. When storms knock out electrical power lines, the phone and cable lines often go down along with them. In this case, you will be missing at least two out of the three legs of that triangle, rendering it useless.

Also keep in mind that during these outages people use candles, generators and kerosene or propane-powered space heaters all of which greatly increases the potential for fires. Cellular service from a tower rarely, if ever, goes down and would be your only lifeline for help. I know this firsthand as I suffered a fire in my own home during a severe thunderstorm. Luckily for us, cellular service was good and our cell phone was the only way we were able to summon help.

Also take into account the fact that someone committing a home invasion would only need to snip your phone or cable line to disable your home phone and remove one of the three legs of that triangle needed by your network extender. This cut cable now disables both your home and cellular phones, again leaving you no way to call for help. Cell phones have become a huge safety component in today’s world.

I also use a network extender that was purchased from Verizon. When it works it is great, but unfortunately, it is not a reliable device due to poor Internet service . The residents on my street do not have access to reliable cable service for our Internet and are forced to use Frontier. Frontier’s connection is often very weak due to the remote location of its server and the aging phone lines that the signal must travel through. My connection must constantly be reset at the modem, thus eliminating my cell service for most of the time.

The other concern I have is cell service on the Taconic Parkway. I do not care if somebody has their cell phone conversation cut short due to a temporary gap in service, but I do care about a car that rolls off the road and out of sight from passing motorists in the middle of the night. Their only hope for help would be through a cell phone call.

An incident similar to this actually happened on the parkway about three years ago. The driver was trapped in his car for almost 24 hours, and the presence of his cell phone greatly assisted rescuers in locating him. There are also many places within Milan where this could happen. People drive very fast through these windy roads and somebody could very easily crash and roll out of sight. I heard a comment at the last zoning board meeting from a woman who claimed that “everybody in Milan looks out for one another, and something like this could never happen.” The fact that people look out for one another is a good thing, but would not help anybody in these circumstances.

Another person commented to the effect of, “Well, we would just do what we did before cell phones.” To that I ask, would you feel comfortable telling that to the family of somebody who died in one of these scenarios where cell service could have been a factor in their survival…and we blocked the building of a cell phone tower that would have provided it?

I only ask that the other side of this discussion be publicized, discussed and taken into consideration by the zoning board, who will ultimately be deciding on this issue

Tom Whyte, Retired Captain, FDNY

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