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  OIT Home > About OIT > Town Hall Meeting: Cellular Sites on Campus
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Town Hall Meeting: Cellular Sites on Campus


Notes on the Meeting, August 7, 2003

Meeting commenced at 9:08am and ended at 10:12am, with approximately forty attendees. Staff was represented by individuals from academic (Biology, Economics, OIT) and administrative departments (Housing, FM, EH&S, Business Services), Student Affairs (CLAS and Physical Activities and Recreation), the Library (Sarah Pritchard), and Associated Students (Elizabeth Robinson). Two faculty members were present: Mark Aldenderfer and Kevin Almeroth (Computer Science). Vendors were represented by AT&T, Verizon, Nextel and Cingular. Sprint was absent. Comments from the meeting follow.

  • In science buildings, like Bio II, there are many experiments going on which perform extremely fine measurements. Cell sites would not be welcome there as biologists have a difficult enough time keeping their systems calibrated as it is.
  • There is no revenue stream coming back to the building occupant for allowing the cell site.
  • Staff responded that the question of where funds from cell sites go is at the discretion of the Chancellor.
  • There is not much chance of getting faculty feedback for a 9:00am meeting in August.
  • One vendor (Nextel) felt that students were in need of superior service, and the campus consultation process held them back from providing that service.
  • Nextel and AT&T said the campus should adopt a master plan so that cell sites can be integrated into the campus in an organized manner. Nextel said they might be interested in sharing the cost for this with the other cellular providers. There was precedent for this in other places.
  • Bob Stevenson from UPTE said he represented the unions on campus, and was very concerned about the long-term health hazards that cellular transmitters may represent to staff.
  • The Department of Recreation was concerned about the fact that their facilities were becoming increasingly used by a mixed community and, while adults would want their cell service to work there, they would not care to have their children engaged in recreational activity near cellular transmitters.
  • Verizon said that emotional issues contributed to the difficulty of convincing people that cellular radio transmissions would not hurt them. They mentioned that people were told not to live under power lines, but that they bought houses under power lines anyway. The only way to overcome emotional feelings is to present facts, but even facts are not accepted by those who will not be convinced no matter what the facts.
  • Discussion shifted to whether there was a benefit to having cell sites on campus at all.
  • Vendors were quick to point out that cell phones provided communications solutions of benefit to students, faculty, and the operations of the University, such as wireless data and a wireless interface to the campus voice system.
  • Campus staff said these might be benefits to some but not to all. One group (CLAS) had a letter from three years ago saying the COW (cell-on-wheels) would be moved in 60 days, but it was still there three years later. One CLAS staff member demanded the COW in question be removed immediately.
  • Business Services said the three-year time frame was an exaggeration, but conceded that the COW had been there too long, and was tentatively scheduled to be removed on September 30th, 2003. The purpose of this campus consultation process is to insure that a procedure is put in place to prevent this type of situation from occuring again.
  • The Library said they had a large, tall building, but had no interest in cell sites. They did not want good cell service in the Library, and wanted to declare it a cellular-free zone if they could. They get many complaints from students who say that they cannot study because other students are using cell phones.
  • One staff member asked why UCSB felt it had to provide good cell service to the student community. He felt students should be here to talk to each other, not talk on the phone, and suggested that the campus create a centralized location where cell phones would work.
  • Another staff member said that idea would not work. Students want cell phones; they come to campus with cell phones now and will come with PDAs, tablets, and anything else wireless in the future. It would not be in our best interest to tell students that wireless services do not work here.
  • A staff member asked why vendors wanted to put cell sites on the campus. AT&T replied that UCSB generates more minutes of use than all of the Hawaiian Islands or LAX.
  • A question was asked about why the providers did not simply put more sites up in the county and leave the University alone. There is bad coverage in other places besides UCSB.
  • A vendor responded they are driven by their customerís complaints. They have to put sites where the phones are, otherwise they are subject to punitive action by regulatory agencies. Because of the reusing of cellular channels, they need more, smaller sites (micro-cells), not less.
  • A staff member asked what the coverage area of a cell site was. AT&T responded that it is about 1 mile, depending on how centrally the site is located.
  • Associated Students (KCSB) said they have had a long and successful relationship with cell sites, beginning with Cellular One (Now AT&T Wireless) back in 1992, and then GTE MobileNet (now Verizon Wireless). They got into the relationship for funding reasons, as Storke Tower is exempt from campus building maintenance funds and gets little support from the campus. The money supports staff and other programs that benefit the students. Campus entities that do not have a strong voice on campus tend to be treated inequitably when it comes to campus funding.
  • One faculty member said he thought the issue was all about money. If the vendors offered the Chancellor enough money, they would not have problems getting sites on campus.
  • Another faculty member said money was not the purpose of the discussion. The meeting was being held at the direction of the Executive Vice Chancellor to provide a vehicle for determining an inclusive consultation process, including academic buy-in. That process might last a month or a year, or possibly might never be resolved.
  • The other faculty member said that 100% faculty buy-in was not possible. Aiming for 100% buy-in of any part of the campus community would be a laudable effort.
  • A staff member asked if the vendors would have 3 GEN (next generation wireless) available. AT&T and Verizon said they have that available now; Nextel has no plans at this time, and Cingular was silent.
  • A staff member asked who was responsible for taking into account the cumulative effect of non-ionized radiation for all these cell sites.
  • Vendors answered that this should not be of concern, since all sites are regulated by the FCC and all sites were within FCC guidelines. If anyone was interested in maintaining that data, it would have to be the campus, because the vendors do not maintain such records about each other, only about themselves.
  • Some staff expressed skepticism of the Federal government and its history of not taking the best interests of some communities to heart when regulating commercial enterprises.
  • AT&T challenged the campus to look at what other institutions of higher education, like the University of Michigan, have done in going totally wireless, and to embrace such forward thinking.
  • One staff member countered that, while that might be true, Lloyds of London would not insure the health of people who worked near cell sites. He cited a book called Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age by George Carlo, a consultant for the wireless industry, which describes how dangerous cell sites are for those who work around them. He emphasized that if Lloyds of London, a company with a history of insuring almost anything, would not insure people around cell sites, then there had to be serious problems with them.
  • Paula Kelly from CLAS suggested that the campus proceed slowly and be cautious when adopting this technology. She mentioned the book Silent Spring, about the effect of pesticides on people long after the government had said how safe pesticides were.

Discussions ended and the meeting was adjourned.


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