5G service expansion facing pushback in Naples

Published: March 21, 2022 5:56 PM EDT
Updated: March 21, 2022 6:14 PM EDT

A battle is brewing over cell reception in Naples. There is a push to expand 5G service, but the business owners don’t want the new, bulky devices ruining the charm of the city streets.

For many, visiting Naples is all about the look and the feel of the area. “This is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. Leave it alone,” said Ray Flood, from New Jersey.

So it’s not surprising tourists don’t like the idea of 5G cell structures like this being built in the 3rd Street South district.

“It’s perfect the way it is I hate seeing these things,” said Phyllis FLood, from New Jersey.

5G is also something that some people in Naples are not interested in, to begin with. “I have enough trouble with the technology I have,” said Thomas Wilmot, from Naples.

Those who depend on their phones for everything believe something has to be done.

“The network was overloaded and you couldn’t get a call out or a message. So, I don’t know if that’s the answer to the problem but there needs to be some kind of solution,” said Chris Murphy, from North Carolina.

Communications company Crown Castle argues this is the solution: Four poles that would reach up to 33 feet with an antenna and box-like structure.

A spokesperson for Crown Castle said in a statement:

Crown Castle provides shared communications infrastructure, including towers, fiber and small cells, which serve as the foundation for mobile connectivity in communities across the United States. As the demand for data and technology increases and we continue to move toward enhanced connectivity, we will need more shared communications infrastructure, specifically small cell deployment underpinned by a robust fiber foundation. We work with communities, wireless carriers, municipalities, and others to design and deliver unique infrastructure solutions. Our proposed small cells in the Third Street South area of Naples will improve the performance of our customer’s network by providing more coverage and capacity; that means more reliable cell phone coverage, faster downloads, and better connectivity. For the past several years, we have collaborated with the City of Naples and community members to design these small cells to both meet the needs of our wireless carrier customer and to blend into the area to preserve the aesthetics of Naples.

Neapolitan Enterprises, which owns more than half of the 3rd Street South district, is opposed to the towers. City of Naples Engineer Alison Biccket’s working both sides on a compromise and knows the 5G equipment can’t always be nice to look at.”It’s again it’s hard, they are these large poles I mean it’s difficult to make a utility pole basically look nice,” said Biccket.

On Tuesday, both sides will plead their cases in front of the Naples City Council who will direct city staff on how to move forward, but the council doesn’t have much say legally.

A 2017 Florida law took away a local government’s ability to regulate the location of 5G towers.

The city does have some say over the look of the poles that would be used.