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Southold turns focus to improving town's poor cell coverage, will seek RFPs from providers

Southold will begin seeking proposals from cellular companies as town officials aim to improve poor cellular coverage townwide.

Supervisor Scott Russell suggested at Tuesday’s meeting that the town begin putting out requests for proposals for cell companies that want to bring in smaller signal-carrying devices to Southold that could help expand cell coverage.

Noting that companies have been developing smaller technology that can fit onto streetlights, Russell said Southold owns about 1,200 such lights across town — not including in Greenport and on Fishers Island — that could potentially be used to mount the devices.

"We own those lights outright, and it would be a good opportunity to not only control any outcomes, but to possibly create revenue," Russell told Newsday in an interview Thursday.

Russell said there had been cellular companies in the past that approached the town about offering to improve cell signal coverage in Southold.

"Southold has very poor cell coverage, and it’s not likely to improve anytime soon," Russell said. "There’s no interest from cell carriers to locate on cell phone towers. They’re shifting gears, they’re shifting their interest in tech and we need to shift ours. If we’re going to get adequate coverage townwide, we need to rethink how we’re going to get that done. Cell towers aren’t going to get the job done anymore."

Board members at Tuesday's meeting seemed receptive to the idea.

Councilman Jim Dinizio asked at the meeting about how the devices would look on streetlights. Keeping in mind that aesthetics have often been a point of contention among North Fork residents, Russell said the town would ask companies to demonstrate that their technology would not compromise the rural character of local roads.

As Greenport also owns its own streetlights, Russell said he would reach out to officials in that village about the possibility of partnering on a joint request that might entice more companies to send in proposals.

Russell said town officials will seek a consultant within the next four to six weeks to help them write up the request.

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