Lavallette officials will soon be tasked with considering an application by Verizon Wireless to locate four “small cell” nodes in town, which are ultimately expected to bring ultra-high-speed 5G connections to the community and alleviate speed and access issues during the summer season.
A group of residents have been pushing back against 5G proposals, claiming that the nodes – small versions of cellular transponders that can be placed on existing street lights or utility poles – are unsafe due to radio frequency emissions. Others have said they consider the nodes unsightly, however in recent months wireless providers have improved the aesthetics of the nodes.
Regardless of public opinion, small cell nodes and 5G wireless services are coming into the mainstream, and the federal government has prohibited local governments from banning them. Three weeks ago, the House of Representatives approved $750 million to boost 5G expansion and rollout, while ensuring domestic firms provide the hardware. In Ocean County, 5G service is already widely available, however the small cell nodes will provide millimeter wave technology, which vastly increases speed and network capacity. As the 5G market emerges, wireless providers will begin to compete with wired services, such as cable companies, to provide data and television services.
Borough Administrator Robert Brice said the proposed locations for the small cell nodes are:
- The 2000 block of Grand Central Avenue (Route 35 north)
- 1704 Grand Central Avenue (Route 35 north)
- 3 Liggett Road
- 103 Brown Avenue
- 120 Washington Avenue
The application for the five sites was received by the borough Nov. 25. There may be an additional site added near the border of Lavallette and Toms River’s Ocean Beach section.
“Once we receive the application, in accordance with the FCC, we’re on a shot clock,” said Brice.
Federal regulations allow the town 60 days to consider the application. It is currently expected to be reviewed at the Jan. 6 meeting of the borough planning board.
The proposed locations of the nodes are locations where utility poles already exist, Brice said. Those poles will be replaced.
“Since the last application, the technology has really advanced in terms of the cosmetics,” said Mayor Walter LaCicero. “I’m not advocating for it, it’s just what I’ve learned about it.”
Councilwoman Joanne Filippone suggested the planning board meeting be moved to Lavallette Elementary School due to public interest in the matter. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lavallette council meetings are currently being streamed remotely and residents must electronically submit questions and comments.
“I don’t see how any of this can be considered fair to the public when the public doesn’t have enough opportunity to ask questions, hear the response, and everything else,” said Filippone.
Brice said the borough engineer is currently reviewing the application. In recent months, residents and homeowners often complained of slow internet speeds in town and crowded wireless circuits, especially with a larger number of year-round residents working from home. Altice, the cable provider in Lavallette, expanded its network capacity as a result. Verizon’s 5G technology would provide potential speeds of 1 gigabyte per second with no wires, and greatly increase circuit capacity.