‘Boring’ fiberoptic disruption will include Heron, Sonja residents

As MCI/Verizon continues a fiberoptic installation network expansion project in Farragut begun earlier this year, Town officials are looking ahead to another possibly related undertaking that might prove to be much more invasive.

Farragut Municipal Planning Commission unanimously approved a request from Mastec – the company that will be installing the six-phase MCI/Verizon Metro Fiber densification project throughout Farragut — at its regular monthly meeting Dec. 19.

With FMPC’s approval, the first phase is scheduled to begin permitting today, Thursday, Jan. 2, with construction to begin after that, and be completed tentatively by Jan. 31. It will impact — primarily with underground boring — Parkside Drive, North Campbell Station Road and residential areas along Heron Road and Sonja Drive.

The additional five phases are scheduled to begin at the first of each month through June.

Mike Majka of MCI/Verizon and project spokesperson, was asked by Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, FMPC member, how residents will be notified of the disruption. “After we get the permits approved, then we place door tags (in the neighborhoods), usually on the side of the street where the work will take place,” he said.

“But I’m open to doing the entire neighborhood.”

“That would be good,” Povlin said. “People like to know what is going on.”

“I have worked with Farragut for two years now and I want to do things however you want,” Majka said. “I’ve given my phone number out, and I want feedback if my crews are not doing a good job. We want to keep our reputation as stellar as we can.”

“We have a good relationship with them — they do what they say they will do,” said Mark Shipley, Farragut Community Development director.

During the discussion, Shipley also noted that next month FMPC will be entertaining a request to place small cell support structures in 12 locations in Farragut, which according to officials will not only tie into Majka’s approved fiber optic installations, but also is likely a harbinger for planned 5G technology.

Povlin had announced the applications earlier in the week on social media platforms Nextdoor.com and Facebook, noting it will be the first in Farragut since the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation in 2018 regulating the deployment of small cells in Tennessee communities.

“On April, 24, 2018, less than one year after the adoption of a well thought-out ordinance meant to protect Farragut’s residential areas, Gov. Haslam signed into law the ‘Competitive Wireless Broadband Investment, Deployment, and Safety Act of 2018,’ essentially preempting the Town of Farragut’s ability to enforce many aspects of Ordinance 17-08 (which had been passed in April 2018),” Povlin wrote.

“This Act adopts a uniform framework applicable to all Tennessee local governments admittedly to facilitate and speed up the deployment of small cells in communities across the state … institutes uniform fees and rates that municipalities can charge, as well as limits the issues about which local governments can regulate small cell facilities located within the public rights-of-way.”

“Small cell technology should not be confused with the huge macrocell towers which are somewhere between 200 feet and 400 feet tall with several antennas on them,” she added. “Small cell technology is mounted on a pole which is between 30 feet and 50 feet tall … and helps to enhance 4G coverage and capacity challenges in locations where usage demands are highest, like the Turkey Creek shopping area.

“While 4G small cells are primarily located in commercial areas in Farragut, 5G technology requires more poles situated more closely to each other to create an effective coverage area. This means we will begin to see small cell structures installed in the public rights-of-way throughout our Town including in residential areas.”

Povlin shared that the 12 sites on the FMPC’s Jan. 16 agenda includes four in residential areas, including Stonecrest, Farragut View and The Cove at Turkey Creek.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that every phone carrier provides its own network of cables and towers. During previous meetings, officials have mulled asking that newer subdivisions put in larger fiber optic cables that could possibly bundle providers, rather than having multiple separate cables.

Carol Christofferson, Sweet Briar resident, addressed the FMPC. “For the record, I’m not a Luddite (a person opposed to technology) nor a NIMBY (not in my back yard), but I am asking if you could protect the residents .. so we don’t have warring parties, coming into our neighborhoods?” she asked. “We don’t really want one pole, but are not in a position to argue it, but we don’t want three or four poles.”

“We may not be in a position to require that,” Povlin said.

“I’m not against technology, I just want to educate, that’s the big thing, that homeowners need to know what’s going on,” Christofferson added.

“We are all residents too, and are just as concerned about it,” FMPC commissioner Jon Greene said. “Because of the legislation at the national level, and state level, our hands are pretty much tied.

We can be vocal about it, but I think it has to work itself out. There not much we can do.”

“That’s why I’ve been sending out information, to get us all working together to understand what the real issues are so we can take them to take to our legislators,” Povlin added. “I think the state legislature may have to revisit this for further amendments.”