Verizon Communication has begun modifying the College heating stack to support equipment required to bring cellular service to Williamstown. The project includes constructing an electronics equipment room adjacent to the heating stack, mounting six panels of antennas on the stack itself and running cables from the new equipment room to the stack.
The town is currently expecting construction to be completed by the end of November, and the activation of digital cellular service is slated for December. Verizon received approval from the Williamstown Zoning Board of Appeals in June 2001 to erect the cellular antenna facility after an eight month permit process, and the equipment room appeal was approved by the College in August.
“Due to the recent events in New York, the deal can only affect the College in a positive way, as a safety and security measure,” said Stephen Mischissin, the Buildings and Grounds (B&G) liaison for the project.
Mischissin feels that more people will be motivated to carry and use cell phones in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
He also expects general parental anxieties about sending kids to college to prompt students to get phones.
“It’s because of my mom,” said Alyssa Domblewski ’05 about carrying her cell phone. “At first it was just because I had a car, in case I broke down. But now I’m here and far away from her, so she wants to be able to reach me.”
The heating stack became a viable option for Verizon to install its antenna arrays after it conducted numerous signal tests to guarantee the quality of signal and its company height requirements. The company was interested in making use of existing architecture due to what Mischissin referred to the College’s and the town of Williamstown’s “opposition to erect new structures.”
Once installed, the smokestack’s antenna will greatly increase cell phone coverage and signal clarity, and coverage should extend to a radius of 10 miles or more.
To foster competition and ensure universal access to the cellular network, the Zoning Board is currently considering allowing a Sprint PCS subsidiary to install its own antenna in early 2002, following approval by the Town of Williamstown.