In the News  Archive

FCC Tower Expansion Plan Threatens Scenic Beauty

Adirondack Almanack
January 30, 2014

by Willie Janeway

The Adirondack Park Agency’s policy that keeps cell towers “substantially invisible” has been good for public safety and scenic vistas for 12 years now.  A proposed federal rule change threatens that policy and the wild beauty of the landscape it protects.

People who care about scenic beauty and historic preservation are joining forces to persuade the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to impose new rules that would allow cell phone companies to increase the height and visibility of communications towers without seeking permission from state or local regulators.

The FCC’s proposed rule would grant automatic approval for applicants seeking to increase the height and/or width of any existing communications tower, regardless of local policies and ordinances.

The rule would be of particular concern in the Adirondack Park, where tourism is the top industry and where local communities depend upon the wildness of the surrounding landscape.  The entire Adirondack Forest Preserve is a registered National Landmark.  Poorly sited tower expansions could harm the public’s view and enjoyment of this national treasure.  Nearly all of the park’s 130 villages and hamlets contain historic sites and buildings.

In 2002, the Adirondack Council and other advocates encouraged the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to develop and adopt an outstanding policy for the review of communications towers.  The APA’s policy on Review of Telecommunications Towers and Other Tall Structures requires towers to remain “substantially invisible.” The APA has skillfully enforced this policy, while still acting quickly to approve new towers and expand communications facilities throughout the Park.

Cell phone companies and internet providers report no significant delays in the approval of their towers. The APA is maintaining a tally of cell tower applications and approvals on its web site’s home page, so the public can track its progress.

The proposed federal rule would wipe out the APA’s ability to enforce this policy if any proposed expansion meets certain criteria. Sadly, even minor increases in height can, in the wrong location, severely harm the scenic beauty of the Adirondacks and hurt its tourism-based economy.

The FCC is accepting comments on the proposal until February 3, 2014.  Anyone who wants to stop the FCC from implementing rules that would harm the Adirondack Park’s scenic beauty and natural character should write a letter or email to the FCC.

Anyone wishing to comment on the FCC plan should note:

  • A generic, nationwide plan for cell tower expansions will not work in places like the Adirondack Park that have valuable scenic and historic resources;
  • They should not wipe out the APA’s successful policy for the siting and modification to cell towers, which has protected the scenic beauty and ecology of the Adirondacks for 12 years, and,
  • The proposed rule should exempt those areas that have established standards for cell towers, such as the Adirondack Park.

The FCC public comment process is spelled out for this proposed rule under “ADDRESSES” in the FCC section of federal register for Dec. 5, 2013:

However, if you do not wish to file at least two (or as many as six) copies of your testimony, email your comments to The Adirondack Council, at and the Council will forward the proper number of copies (with the correct reference citations) to the FCC on your behalf.  Be sure to include your home mailing address in your email so the FCC knows you are a real person.

The comment deadline is Monday, Feb. 3, 2014.

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