Verizon cell-service users are one third of the way to the full service improvement foreseen when the company first proposed building nine network poles on the north end of the island.
Three of the poles are energized and on air, company officials said of the project designed to bolster long-spotty cell service on Longboat's northern half.
Florida Power and Light and Wilco, the town's underground utilities contractor, are working to complete connections for the remaining six poles. When connected, an integration team will get those sites to a temporary on-air status then to permanent status as finishing touches are put on the town’s underground utility project.
“We have activated three Longboat Key small cells, boosting our capacity for customers throughout Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key, and coverage for customers in Longboat Key,'' Chris Serico, a representative of Verizon, wrote in an email. "The news gets even better in the coming weeks, as six additional sites in that area are expected to power up in the coming weeks.”
All poles have been placed with seven 35-foot poles along Gulf of Mexico Drive, ranging from North Shore Drive to the 5000 block. The 25-foot poles are on Binnacle Point Drive and at the corner of Broadway Street and Lois Drive in Longboat Beach Village.
Assembly of the nine poles was finished in July.
The poles were required to be black to match the color and general appearance of streetlights planned for installation as part of the town’s underground utility project. When possible, the poles were hidden among trees to decrease visibility to passersby.
While residents were eager for improved phone service, complaints during public hearings centered around the exact placement of the neighborhood poles. Residents argued against different pole locations due to concerns for aesthetic, visibility and property value decreases.
Operators of MarVista Dockside, for example, were among those supporting the notion of better cell service but argued against the location of a 25-foot pole immediately adjacent to its sign at the corner of Lois Lane and Broadway Street in Longbeach Village.
However, Verizon engineers argued in favor of their placement as moving pole locations would likely require additional poles to be built to fill in the gaps.
While customers of Verizon, including the town itself and its first responders, will initially benefit from the new network on the north end, company officials said their equipment is designed to accept another company’s gear. But, they said, a company such as AT&T or T-Mobile would have to come to a business agreement with Verizon, and the locations of the poles would have to mesh with the other company’s network needs. Potentially, other carriers could make a similar application to the town to erect their own poles, though the town's 60-foot spacing requirement and other specifications would still apply.