Hawley, Charlemont getting signal boost
Tower will bring high-speed LTE service to cellphones
HAWLEY — After living with only spotty cell-phone reception and limited Internet access for years, Hawley and Charlemont will soon have two providers offering state-of-the-art service.
Industrial Communications of Marshfield will build a 197-foot telecommunications tower on land owned by Berkshire East. When finished, this lattice-style tower will be used by both Verizon and AT&T to provide “fourth-generation Long Term Evolution” — also known as 4G LTE — to the region.
“4G LTE provides very fast data speeds,” explained Kevin Delaney, engineering and regulatory compliance manager for Industrial Communications. “It’s the latest standard in high-speed.”
LTE is a high-performance radio-platform technology from which those with data plans can quickly download music or stream videos from their cellphones, computers and tablets.
Construction on the site itself began before winter and will resume after “mud season,” when a crane can more easily be brought up the steep road to the mountain top, said Delaney. The tower will have 11 antennas on it, and Delaney expects it to be installed by spring.
“That will help our customers out,” said Jon Schaefer of Berkshire East.
It will also help out the town’s emergency services, said Hawley Fire Chief Gregory Cox. “My cellphone works right now at Berkshire East — at the top of the mountain,” he said. “But there is no coverage in West Hawley. And coverage in East Hawley is very limited. Near the former (Donovan) potato farm, we get coverage from both the Goshen and Shelburne (cell towers) at high altitudes. But the state forest has virtually no coverage at all.”
This can be a problem when someone is injured in the Hawley State Forest, because they can’t call for help on a cell phone.
Also, after the catastrophic damage in town due to Tropical Storm Irene, the town’s emergency officials could only reach the federal and state Emergency Management agencies (FEMA and MEMA) with a really old computer, a modem and a DSL phone line. “We couldn’t use the websites they wanted us to use,” he said.
Cox said the Tri-State Radio tower, also located on Berkshire East property, offers good radio reception for fire and police services “down that part of the hill, but we can’t get good reception at all from the fire station or from my house (in East Hawley).
“We use a half-dozen of Franklin County’s nine radio towers in Hawley — depending on the angle of the mountain from where the emergency is,” said Cox.
When asked if he thought the new tower will improve communications for emergency response, Cox replied: “I think it will help. What we don’t know is how far it’s going to reach.”
Cox added that having the option to use a cellphone during an emergency response will be helpful on some occasions. “It will allow you to have a conversation without everyone listening,” he said.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 277.