Sunday, April 22, 2007

The price of convenience

According to the newsletter Mrs. Gerbil received the other day, the Alameda Green Party is congratulating itself over preventing the construction of some cell phone tower somewhere. I don't know where the tower was supposed to be, as Mrs. Gerbil has already recycled the newsletter and the link which should lead to the newsletter doesn't actually yield anything of use.

But this will not stop my snark. Oh, children, my snark cannot be stopped.

I will concede that cell towers are ugly. I'll also concede that I had no idea that there were so many ways to disguise cell towers. But it's not just aesthetics (or lack thereof) that fuel protests against cell tower construction. It's the possibility of a health hazard. It's the intrusion of commercial activity into non-commercial zones. Oh, and it's the principle of the thing.

Now, I'm all for preservation and good planning and all that, but there's a fundamental problem with cell tower nimbyism: No cell tower, no cell service.

Many people have no land line because their cell phones are their primary phones. That's great for people who know they can always get reception. Mrs. Gerbil and I each have a cell phone, but we also have a land line because cell phones aren't 100% reliable. On our landline we have a cordless phone and an old-school phone with a 25' cord. (Why the ancient model? Because we can't use the cordless to notify PG&E that the power is out.)

If cell tower construction is restricted, then existing towers may get overwhelmed--and then we'll all bang our heads on the wall to the tune of "We're sorry, all circuits are busy now. Please try your call again later."

When I decided to get a cell phone about five and a half years ago, I chose my company based on local coverage. The best coverage in my area came from Verizon or Sprint, but it was well known that there was no Sprint reception on Coventry Road. Coventry is full of all kinds of fun shops, and as I lived about a quarter mile away, I was there all the time. Needless to say, I chose Verizon. Verizon, however, does not have such great reception in our bedroom in Berkeley. But this doesn't bother me. I can put up with the lack of reception in our bedroom, because the only way to fix this is to put up a cell tower on the bed. And that's just plain silly.

However, I also don't subscribe to the belief that cell phone ownership equals constant accessibility. So I suppose it's okay to support the restriction of cell tower construction if you don't mind not being able to use your cell phone everywhere and all the time. But if your cell phone is necessary for your survival, then cell towers are your necessary evil.


Heather W. Reichgott said...

apparently there was also a whole kafuffle about a cell phone tower going up in noe valley, a few years before i started working here. the funny thing is, the radiation you get from a cell tower is nothing compared to the radiation you get from USING a cell phone, or the radiation you get from having a microwave oven operating in your home. some people have no sense of perspective.

Rachel said...

the cell phone tower was supposed to go up in gormet ghetto on northside

Gerbil said...

Yeah, it's not like North Berkeley is super-saturated with cell phone users or anything...

Lavender said...

Medically speaking, the microwave still outranks both the cell towers and the actual cell phones as fas as damage goes. Though I can't imagine functioning without the microwave or the cell phone... they want to build a tower on our farmland in the county, and that's just not gonna fly. Not only would we not like it, but I'm pretty sure our donkeys would destroy it for the fun of it. :-)