School Districts and Mobile Towers / HOME



Currently, there is a push by wireless providers to increase the capacity of their wireless networks. From 2007 to 2008, wireless Minutes of Use (MOUs) increased by 10% and data usage is increasing significantly with the proliferation of smart phones. This trend will continue if wireless providers increase the number of minutes allowed under the typical wireless plan as wireless use becomes a commodity. This translates to additional need for capacity in the wireless network which can be met in a number of ways including increasing the density and number of mobile sites in areas where capacity is needed.

Historically, the wireless industry has built communication towers in commercial and industrial areas and has avoided the residential areas due to high "NIMBY" opposition. NIMBY refers to the "Not In My Back Yard" mentality where end users want reliable wireless service, but they don't want to see the wireless infrastructure necessary to provide it. Building towers in areas where land use was more intense was fine before but now that carriers need increased capacity and better coverage indoors where the end user needs it- the carriers are starting to focus on residential areas. The proximity between mobile sites is shrinking as well such that the carriers can no longer simply find commercial or industrial areas and aim coverage into the residential areas. Instead, the carriers are now building sites between their existing sites- a process we in the industry call "infill".

The problem is that council regulations may have outright prohibitions on wireless towers in residential areas or have residential action groups that are quite vocal with residential area installations. Carriers are getting more and more innovative at working through the demands of local communities to place communication towers in residential areas- including using stealth towers and other camouflage technologies to better "hide" towers. Despite this, in many residential areas, there are only so many larger lots or buildings that would meet local council regulations.

In our experience as both a site acquisition company for the wireless carriers and as a consultant for councils, these larger lots of open space are often either churches or schools. Because of the unique locations and large lot size, churches and schools are often good locations for mobile towers. Unfortunately, because of the NIMBY effect, they are often contentious ones as well.

Ironically, the wireless industry prefers not to locate their equipment or towers on school property in most cases because of the fear that parents can sometimes get upset about the potential health risks of mobile towers and will oppose any tower proposal. It is difficult to project whether a proposed tower will upset local residents and parents. As a result the wireless carriers will look to other properties before they look to a school for a potential location.

The net impact is that when a school is approached it is often as a measure of last resort. The school property may be the only option for the wireless carrier and the school may have a significant advantage in negotiations about not only lease rate but other terms as well. It is in these situations where we can assist school most effectively. We have assisted numerous schools and universities in the negotiation of mobile tower leases. We can review whether the carrier has any other options besides school property and if not, how hard the school can push in negotiations.

Please don't hesitate to contact us to discuss your school's situation. The initial discussion is free. We won't tell you how much you should be charging for your leases, but we will indicate whether we think there is room for improvement. And we can provide a quote for services and references from other schools and universities who will tell you that you would be missing out by not retaining SiteXcell.