Friday, January 04, 2013

Wireless firms putting cell antennas atop churches

Cellular phone companies have been trying to increase service in undeserved areas for years as smartphone use has skyrocketed. They've built cell phone towers in rural areas, but often local residents are opposed claiming the towers are an eyesore. Companies now hope churches can provide a compromise by allowing them to hide cell sites in steeples, belfries and crosses, Bob Pool of the Los Angeles Times reports. (Times photo by Gina Ferazzi: antenna doubling as church steeple)

Companies often refuse to build new cell towers in rural areas because the cost to build would be more than what could be recovered in profit from sparse local customers. But putting cellular transmission in churches could offer a solution. However, some local residents and churchgoers are opposed, claiming radiation risks from cellular transmitters. The wireless industry says this assertion is false, citing Federal Communications Commission studies that have found no evidence to link cancer and wireless transmission.

Despite the opposition, basing cellular transmitters atop churches is gaining support. California Watch, an investigative reporting group, found that no one keeps track of how many churches have cell transmitters, but some congregations in California actively market themselves. The Canyon Creek Presbyterian Church in San Ramon struck a deal with T-Mobile six years ago when it was building a new church because the deal would give the church about $25,000 to $30,000 a year in profit. The Times reports that lease deals with cell companies can bring a church about $4,000 a month. (Read more)

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