Phelps Broadband Tower Goes to Referendum

Nov 13, 2013

Voters in Phelps will have a referendum next spring on whether to go ahead with a plan for a new wireless internet tower.  

The town of Phelps has little high-speed internet access outside of downtown.
Credit Bill Wilkinson / WXPR News

A town meeting vote narrowly defeated a proposal for buying a property slated for tower construction.  But a margin of just five votes prompted the town board this week to approve a referendum.

Phelps Town Chair Colin Snook says better high speed access would boost the economy. 

“You know in the metropolis of Phelps if you will – right downtown we’ve got service from four different providers and it’s excellent.  The issue really becomes as you get further out of town – the access just isn’t there.  Nobody wants to run cable and fibers to provide high speed internet.”

It would cost $35,000 to buy the property on the southeast side of town and build the wireless tower.  The town has already set aside $20,000 of that money from a budget line item. 

Town officials have been negotiating with service provider SonicNet.  But Snook says opponents of the plan question why the town is footing the bill.

“The advantage to that is that it allows us to have more than one service provider if somebody new were to come along.  Or it allows the town to have full control over what takes place on the tower and so on.”

But he says officials are renegotiating with the company, so a different arrangement is possible. 

The new tower would only provide wireless to part of the Phelps area.  Snook says it’s the first step in a bigger plan to increase access.