Cell tower upgrades OK

Companies such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T are leading a wave of cellphone tower upgrades in the Adirondack Park, which is good news for several reasons.

First, the obvious – it’s good for cellphone users. It’s probably unrealistic to expect a huge expansion of service area just yet, but if you use a smartphone, you may get more, faster Internet functions as service levels are upgraded from 2G to 3G, 4G or LTE. That’s important. Just like good roads are needed to keep the economy moving, nowadays, good wireless infrastructure is needed, too.

Second, it’s good that it’s happening at all. Service providers have apparently gotten more comfortable with the state Adirondack Park Agency’s towers policy, and they’re submitting preapplication materials and otherwise playing the game the way the APA recommends. That’s the way planning and zoning are supposed to work – set a new normal, and developers get used to it and take it for granted – but it often takes a while to get to that point.

Third, it’s good that APA staff members and commissioners are re-evaluating their policy as they go, seeing what works and how well, and considering changes – like, perhaps, to the “substantially invisible” requirement for new towers.

Granted, consistency is valuable in zoning, but gradual evolution is better. Better to tweak rules as needed, to make things work better for everyone, than to ride an old plan past its “best by” date, setting up the need for a huge overhaul at some point.

For the future, we suspect the overwhelming majority of Adirondack residents and visitors would also like to see the cell-service range expanded on highways and in hamlets. For that, some new towers will have to be built.

There’s still no service on many long stretches of well-traveled Adirondack highways. The safety of travelers should be a concern to the government, and their blackout time should be a concern to service providers. Between those two, they ought to work something out.

In general, Adirondackers love the park’s natural beauty and appreciate that its natural landscapes don’t have towers poking up through them. But people are not just camping out here. They live here the same as people live all over New York, and the need for modern human infrastructure in the park has long since been validated.