The plan to build a distributed antennae system (DAS) to boost cell phone coverage in the three up-Island towns appears to be moving ahead without West Tisbury, after the town zoning board ruled that the American Tower Company must apply for 23 individual permits to use utility poles around town.

Selectmen in Chilmark and Aquinnah already have voted to sign contracts with American Tower.

Aquinnah selectman Camille Rose said she was disappointed West Tisbury will not be included in the DAS plan.

“I think some people in that town felt they already have significant cell phone coverage, so they were in a different position than the other two towns. I think there is a possibility they could still be a part of this; nothing is set in stone, but we can’t wait forever. People deserve better [cell phone] service,” Ms. Rose said.

West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel said there has been no official word from American Tower one way or another, but he conceded that the company may want to leave the town out of the plan.

“West Tisbury is certainly moving slower than the other two towns. And I know they want to start building now,” he said

Chilmark executive secretary Timothy Carroll said yesterday he understands the company will start building before this summer, provided they have a cell phone provider ready to lease space in the new system. The company has indicated that two carriers have expressed interest, and work could begin in the coming weeks, he said.

By JIM HICKEY