After months of residents’ complaints, the city of Denver is taking a look at the dozens of “cell poles” that have appeared in residential neighborhoods since 2017.
Denverite first reported on the phenomenon last year. The poles, some up to 30 feet tall, have appeared on block after block, part of new efforts by Verizon and other providers to build out a high-speed cell network.
The city can’t completely stop the installation of the poles, thanks to a 2017 state law that says companies should generally be allowed to build them in the public right of way along streets.
Dozens have been installed already, 90 more are approved for construction, and 85 are in review. They’re expected to unclog data connections, keeping up with the growing number of devices that tap into the cellular network. They also could be the backbone of the next-generation 5G cell network, due to launch by 2020 and potentially deliver speeds of gigabit per second, far faster than most wired connections.
So, the new poles are going to keep coming, and Denver’s trying to direct them to more convenient spots.
“This is going to affect every neighborhood,” Councilman Wayne New told Denverite last year. “This is not just Cheesman Park or Capitol Hill. This is going to be all across the city.”
New city rules created in January say that the providers should use existing utility poles whenever possible, including by installing combination street light-cell poles.
The rules also say that the poles shouldn’t hinder pedestrians or vehicles or affect public safety, that they should be in alleyways or near street corners, and that they shouldn’t be within 250 feet of each other, among other rules. The rules also include design standards.
City crews already have asked Verizon to move the pole at 1175 Emerson Street, following pressure from residents. It’s unclear whether the placement violated rules.
The city is also reviewing all of the current small cell towers for potential issues, and it’s re-screening the proposed towers to see if they meet the current requirements.