Changing tower restrictions could improve wi-fi access in rural areas 11/14/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2014

Changing tower restrictions could improve wi-fi access in rural areas

By Rupert Howell
An enquiry to Panola County Land Commission by District Five Supervisor Cole Flint has those commissioners considering whether to recommend changing tower restrictions to make it easier for rural residents to get wi-fi internet service from local internet provider CCWireless (Complete Computers).

Flint explained that a strategically placed tower in his neighborhood  would service several homes with adequate speed internet service. The tower would be under Federal Communications Commission minimum height limitations  but taller than Panola County’s restrictions for communications towers which is 35 feet.

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Flint explained that as the law reads, Complete Computers would have to apply for a variance every time a group of homes agreed to purchase their service and a small tower or antennea was needed to place a wi-fi server. He noted that by the time commission members meet and approved the variance (commissioners meet once a month), the potential customers may have used another route to gain internet access.

Chad Meek serves as the commission’s enforcement officer and said he understands the local internet provider has several locations that needed towers and was looking for direction from his board as to the best way to proceed.

Discussion included recommending to supervisors to grant internet providers a blanket provision for tower or antennae erection up to a certain height, changing height restrictions in the county’s code or streamlining the variance process for towers.

Travis Ferguson with Complete Computers would later say that Flint’s request came from an informal conversation with his co-workers that revealed a lag between the time a consumer would request an upgrade for faster speed internet connection and the time a company representative could meet with the commission to gain approval.

Ferguson said that his company’s ability to use a wireless connection can put rural consumers with faster internet connections quicker and cheaper than laying optical fiber or cable. It can be a less expensive alternative than satellite internet and other options which also have use limits.
During discussions Flint said that Tallahatchie Valley had agreed for equipment to be placed on power poles and noted that towers or antennas  erected for wi-fi purposes would be on private property and only need power to operate the local internet company’s wi-fi.

Discussions also included agreement that internet accessibility was similar to making available utilities and other infrastructure to county residents and businesses.