Improving Mobile Phone Communication

Update on the 263ft Proposed Cell Tower
Diamond Towers has filed a lawsuit against Eagle Harbor Township in the Western District of Michigan federal district court, alleging violations of the Telecommunications Act of 1996


Purpose: This page is setup to be a source of information to address what is possibly seen as a problem at the top of the Keweenaw, and come up with a solution to address this problem. This page is continually updated; view the bottom of the page to see the last time it was updated. 

Call to Action: Let us take a different philosophy to the cell phone communication problem. Rather than wait for a cell tower development company or a cell service company to come to the area every couple of years and suggest where they want to put a cell tower, let us take a more holistic approach and think about the entire Keweenaw. This will allow us to work together as a community and put together a plan for how the limited cell phone coverage in the Keweenaw can be effectively addressed and solved. This moves us away from the “have a hammer, where is the next nail” strategy that continually leads to sub-par solutions and many people being upset. With this holistic approach, the first step is to fall in love with the problem, and not fall in love with a solution first. We want to better understand the problem first so that we can then find a better solution in a transparent process.

If you have any suggestions on how to improve cell coverage at the tip of the Keweenaw while not diminishing the vistas that the areas is known for, contact us. We will work to create a forum where solutions are discussed, the problem clearly defined, and a problem discovered or created.


Problem:

Limited cell phone communication at the top of the Keweenaw *

Example Solutions:

The following are example solutions to the problem. These examples are provided to better illustrate the problem and to understand how the problem is being viewed and defined at the outset of this process falling in love with the problem to get to a better solution.

  • Utilize the existing cell towers and use better equipment on the existing towers
  • Setup multiple lower towers, that are below or just above the tree canopy
  • Provide satellite phones to residents, first responders, and medical staff so they can communicate better
  • Calling over wifi: No cell phone service: continue to offer no cell phone service, as that is a feature of the Keweenaw that will continue to make the Keweenaw unique in a positive manner.
  • For towers greater than 200 feet, rather than putting a light on top, use the OCAS.

 


But before we come up with solutions, we need to make sure we clearly define the problem.

Problem Defined: There is very limited cell service currently throughout the Keweenaw, and especially at the top of the Keweenaw peninsula. This is one of the draws to the area, as people look to get away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives, and escape to the Keweenaw. However, there is also the argument that the ease of communication with anyone at anytime in any place has become a necessity for some. The cell phone has been the main instrument for that ability to communicate. Here are several maps that show the existing antennas at the top of the Keweenaw, and from one of the cell service providers, Verizon (which is just one of the cell service providers in the USA, as there are multiple cell service providers).:

Map of Existing cell service provider antennas at the top of the Keweenaw, and the quality of connections on main roads in the area (Source: https://www.cellmapper.net/)
Cell Coverage the Top of the Keweenaw, from Verizon as of 2021-04-08 (Source: https://www.verizon.com/coverage-map/)
Cell Coverage the Top of the Keweenaw, from AT&T as of 2020 (Source: AT&T)

That said, we at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge are beginning to look into this. This is not a topic that the Lodge was interested in pursuing at this time, as new ownership has been focused on turning the ship and ensuring the historic resort stayed afloat and its infrastructure is on good footing. However, we have been thrust into addressing this issue because of certain activities that have taken place since the ownership change. [ In August 2018, before the close on the property in September 2018, cell tower companies started approaching the new owner. ]

Since the Lodge, as well as Brockway Mountain Drive, are on the national historic register, the Lodge has the responsibility to be a steward of the historic nature of the infrastructure and the vistas. The standard solution for improving cell phone coverage is to erect as many towers as possible in a location; and the taller and bigger the better.

For example, the current situation we are in with a cell tower developer and provider has that mentality (their philosophy, “I have a hammer, let me find as many nails that I can hit”). Diamond Communications / AT&T have been pushy in finding a tower location, initially on the Lodge property and now across the street from the Lodge property.

Why is no cell phone service a problem?

To some not having a cell service is not a problem, and believe it isn’t needed or is a luxury that doesn’t have to be around every second of the day. However, to others, they need cell service for a certain comfort level in living or traveling, As well, a stronger cell service coverage provides Emergency Medical technicians (EMTs) and first responders the ability to find individuals that need medical assistance (e.g. a mountain biker that has been injured on one of the trails, or someone that is having a heart attack or a stroke).

Below, we are working to lay out the history of trying to solve this problem with cell coverage at the top of the Keweenaw. The sections will be sparse initially and will be built up as we gather more and more information of what has happened in the past. But at the same time, we want to make sure we are focusing on the future when working to create or discover solutions to the problem (marrying history with the future to get to a vibrant and progressive present).

Looking at a 2-tower Solution

One of the solution is to have several towers. One at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and one in Copper Harbor. Four locations in the Copper Harbor area that are possibilities:

1. Copper Harbor Dump
2. Copper Harbor Sewage Plant
3. Copper Harbor Lighthouse
4. Twardzik Family Property

Here is a map showing the location on the Lodge property for the tower and the 4 options listed above for where a tower could be located in the Copper Harbor area.

Click on map to go to the Google Maps view

History of addressing the Problem

We are compiling information about how the problem has been addressed currently and in the past so we have that history documented and easily accessible. [ If you have information you would like to provide to help with documenting the solutions that have been suggested in the past to solve this problem, you can send them to info@keweenawresort.com so we can add them here. ] 

Proposed cell tower across US Hwy 41 from Lodge (2020 – present)

A 263-foot cell tower, in the location as indicated in the map below, off US Hwy 41, across from the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge property. The tower will have two red blinking lights on it: 1 at the top and 1 in the middle. This is a tower proposed by Diamond Communications and AT&T, with Ramaker as the consultant.

[ This image reflects the location based upon the balloon test in late May 2021 performed by Ramaker and Diamond, with a simulated tower as tall as the balloon (see the balloon at the top of the tower in the image. ]
Multiple meetings have been held regarding this proposed cell tower. The information was initially provided to Keweenaw County in June 2020, and the first information and meetings with Eagle Harbor Township started around that same time as well.  Here is a list of the Eagle Harbor Township meetings:

Since this tower affects two properties on the Historical Register of National Places, the cell tower / service companies are to follow the Section 106 process as laid out by the FCC. These two properties are Brockway Mountain and the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Below is a partial list of the meetings that have transpired as part of the Section 106 process with the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO), organized by Ramaker:

  • May 24-25, 2021 (drone and ballon test)
  • March 30, 2021
  • December 9, 2020
  • December 2, 2020
  • November 9, 2020

Statements from Eagle Harbor Township and Grant Township Supervisors regarding the proposed cell tower in May 2021. [ click on images below to read the letters ]


Proposed cell tower on KML Lodge property (2018 – 2019)

Through a cell tower broker, AT&T and Diamond Communications approached the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge about putting a cell tower on the Lodge property (starting in August 2018, before the ownership change in September 2018). It was discussed between the cell tower / service companies and the Lodge two different locations where the cell tower / service companies would like to put the tower.

When looking at two locations on the Lodge property, here is how a 199′ cell tower would look in those two locations (computer simulations). The first location proposed was near hole 5 tee box. The second proposed location was near the maintenance building area. 

Proposed location on KML property, near hole 5 tee box. Source: Apex Engineers
Proposed location on KML property, near maintenance area, pine tree-look. Source: Mastec

A contract was drafted by AT&T at the start of the dialogue, but never negotiated or agreed upon, as the discussions never got past how the tower would impact the vistas of the Keweenaw.  The owner of the Lodge decided against the cell tower because the cell tower development company didn’t understand the Keweenaw and how to come up with a solution that would benefit the community more than it would diminish the vistas of the Keweenaw.

Proposed cell tower on Brockway Mountain (~2010-2014)

We are working on obtaining more information about the history of this proposed tower, as it was prior to the new ownership of the Lodge. From what we know, a cell tower was proposed on Brockway Mountain, and registered with the FCC in 2010 by SBA Towers. 

To understand where the tower was proposed, see the map below. It is the tower shown in the middIe on the map below, with the summit of Brockway Mountain on the left hand of the map.

 

Source: antennasearch.com

Note: The far right tower on the map above is a tower registered with the FCC by SBA Towers in 2017. The far left tower on the map above is the tower registered with the FCC by Diamond Communication in 2020. 

The following documents contain information from studies done regarding the proposed Brockway tower and alternatives to having a tower on the east side of Brockway Mountain — as there was opposition for putting a tower on Brockway Mountain.

 


* Yes, there is a perspective that limited cell service in the Keweenaw is limited, so having limited cell service isn’t considering a problem. That said, one of the solutions to the problem of limited service at the top of the Keweenaw is that  cell phones are not needed in the Keweenaw (that there are other ways to communicate and to provide medical support when people have injuries in the area).

 

[ Last updated October 4, 2021 ]

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