In a series of popular television commercials for a major cell phone provider, a fictional employee travels across America asking someone on the other end of his phone, “Can you hear me now?” After receiving confirmation, he states, “Good.” The purpose of this commercial is to emphasize the importance of having stable wireless signal coverage wherever you live, work, and travel. But how is reliable coverage achieved? A large part of the answer is found at the local level, and that’s why cities are involved. However, the federal government’s Telecommunications Act places limitations on local authority in regard to zoning and land use decisions for wireless service facilities, called base stations.
Wireless carriers use antennas located on base stations to send and receive information (i.e., voice, text, and data). In addition to relaying information, base stations automatically search for the strongest signal closest to the caller as he/she moves around town. As a result, it’s important to have adequate base stations placed around your community to reduce the likelihood of weak signals, dropped calls, and “dead zones.”
Base stations are heavily regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A primary reason is because they emit radio frequency (RF) energy, which is the same type of power used to broadcast radio and television signals. Since the antennas for transmitting wireless communication are typically located outdoors on towers and other elevated structures like rooftops or sides of buildings, ground-level RF readings are well below the exposure limits recommended by the FCC.
Well, that’s probably more information about wireless signal coverage than you were looking for, however, as the late, great radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Supporting Documents & Links
- Wireless Ordinance (2 MB)
- Section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act (139 KB)
- Guide: Wireless Communication (FCC)
- Where Can You Locate Wireless Towers and Antennas? (FCC)
- Wireless Health Concerns (FCC)
- Wireless Health Concerns (OSHA)
- Wireless Health Concerns (American Cancer Society)
- Wireless Supplemental App A mCUP and Section 6409(a) Modification
- Wireless Supplemental App A
- Supplemental App B