Efforts to move ahead with a plan that would rely on a distributed antenna system (DAS) to improve wireless service up-Island received a boost yesterday.
The up-Island DAS committee met yesterday and announced the receipt of a revised application from the American Tower Company (ATC), the DAS system developer that includes a “letter of intent” from wireless carrier T-Mobile.
The need to secure an interested carrier has been a stumbling block. Without an interested carrier, ATC had delayed the start of its permitting process.
A joint permitting hearing in Chilmark that will include Aquinnah officials is scheduled for November 30.
“There is a plan now,” DAS committee chairman JB Riggs Parker, Chilmark selectman, said.
DAS relies on a series of radio access nodes, connected to small antennas set on telephone poles, or poles erected for the specific purpose, to distribute cellular telephone signals. Although the range is considerably less than in conventional, tall-tower systems, DAS appeals to communities where a high conventional tower is unwelcome but wireless telephone service is poor.
Chilmark Executive Secretary Tim Carroll told the committee that it is the intent of ATC to have the DAS system construction completed “by the summer next year.” The plan is to erect 46 nodes on replacement stub poles or new poles.
Committee member Richard Knabel of West Tisbury said he does not believe that completed construction is possible given the restrictions imposed on roadway obstruction due to construction from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Martha’s Vineyard.
There was also discussion among the committee members regarding the construction schedule since both Chilmark and Aquinnah may be granting building permits soon and the West Tisbury Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) has not yet received an application from ATC, nor has it scheduled any consideration of such an application. “Clearly West Tisbury is critical to the process, but they should be able to start here in Chilmark,” said Mr. Carroll.
The DAS committee plans to review a draft contract submitted by ATC at a meeting on October 28. Following committee review each of the three boards of selectmen would need to approve and sign the contract, Mr. Parker said.