ASHLAND, Ore. – Southern Oregon University could be getting a cell tower built on campus but some Ashland residents have voiced a few concerns.
The cell tower would provide cell service to the campus and surrounding neighborhoods, an area that is a “blind spot” for service, according to the Director of Facilities Management, Planning and Sustainability at SOU, Drew Gilliland.
“Standing here right now I have 1-2 bars,” explained Gilliland, “once you enter any of the buildings, most of the buildings, you’re lucky to get one bar.”
Students on SOU’s campus are completely dependent on Wi-Fi.
“As we construct new facilities and over into residence halls, we actually had to put cell booster’s,” says Gilliland.
If the cell tower was built it would go on top of the science building. The service provider would be responsible for the construction costs and any de-construction costs if the contract ended.
“The company is leasing the space from us and so we would reap those benefits and put that back into technology, probably Wi-Fi and whatever the technology fund needs,” explains Gilliland, “It’s almost a win-win from our perspective; cell phone service for students on campus plus the money to put back into our IT infrastructure.”
However, there are some concerns that nearby residents have brought to attention.
The view from surrounding houses is one of the those worries. In order to mitigate that the school has said they will place panels around the new construction, similar to ones that are already in place on top of the science building.
Noise is another problem.
“As we look at noise and where the cabinet goes for the equipment, which will be down below grade and in a building with just a small air conditioner,” said Gilliland, “we think all of those have been mitigated.”
And there has been confusion about whether the service would be 4G or 5G, "There is a concern that it’s going to be 5G, which it’s not, it’s a 4G system," says Gilliland, "which is currently what you see around the valley anyways."
The last main concern is radiation, “There is a real mix out there in the community,” says Gilliland, “Some really want it, they’re looking forward to the better service. Others are concerned about the radiation or any electromagnetic issues coming from it.”
“I think were fine as is because we do have Wi-Fi all over campus and so if there is any cellular stuff that doesn’t work we can get that through Wi-Fi, which is great for me,” says Katie Shigo, a current SOU student, “and I actually save a lot on my cellular data because of the Wi-Fi.”
“I think it would be a good thing,” says Miranda Stiles, a SOU Admissions Councilor, “I know we have pretty spotty service, depending on your provider here, so I think it would increase for the people visiting the school and living here in Ashland as well, so I think it would be a good thing.”
On Tuesday, July 26th at 6:00PM there will be a public hearing about the cell tower at 1175 E. Main St. in Ashland.