AT&T’s Palo Alto Wireless Improvements Get Rocky Reception

Despite the friendly face it is putting on its strategy to beef up wireless reception in Palo Alto, AT&T is facing some rough local resistance to its implementation ideas from citizens of the cultural center of Silicon Valley.

Though AT&T has earned city approval to install a new regular cellular antenna as well as some new antennas to support a public Wi-Fi hotspot zone, its actions have riled some residents including one longtime Internet technologist who has threatened to cut off the city government’s free Internet access due to his opposition to the cell-tower approval process. There was also heated debate about the Wi-Fi hotspot plan, which eventually won city approval in part because of AT&T’s pledge to install the gear without entering the building the antennas will be mounted on.

So far there has been no city decision on a wider-reaching AT&T plan to install numerous smaller cellular antennas in a technology deployment known as Outdoor Distributed Antenna System (ODAS), which like the other ideas is aimed chiefly at improving AT&T’s cellular reception in the California city that is home to a wide range of Silicon Valley leaders and influencers, and sits next door to Stanford University. The Palo Alto deployment is part of a wide-ranging AT&T strategy to increase the number of DAS deployments nationwide, but like the other ideas it is running into some local opposition.

While the smaller DAS antennas (which can be mounted on existing structures like power poles) might seem more aesthetically acceptable, several residents feared that by agreeing to allow AT&T to install the antennas the city could be jeopardizing a long-standing plan to bury utility lines and eliminate overhead poles. According to one news report, the Palo Alto city council may “step back and discuss a larger, citywide approach” to cellular implementation plans, based on the contentious nature of some recent applications like AT&T’s.

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