Bank of America sells flagpoles as cellular masts
Project America - it has a resoundingly fervent sound with the patriotism echoing, the Stars and Stripes and apple pie in the background... which appears to be Bank of America's way of getting a project under way which might be unpopular with the general public.
The project is quite simply, using BofA buildings as cellphone masts. It means Trammel Crow Company (TCC) has done a deal with the bank, which allows it to offer "approximately 3,500 Bank of America retail banking centres nationwide for installation of state-of-the-art stealth transmission sites. These site installations will be built to mimic existing features, such as flag poles and light standards."
The official release speaks of the urgent need for more cellphone towers. "In the past 18 months, wireless service subscriptions have grown nearly 15 per cent," says the announcement, quoting the CTIA Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Survey released in November 2004.
"Inadequate wireless coverage has long challenged mobile operators, and wireless carriers have sought to address this issue via aggressive network expansions in select regions across the country, as sites become available on a public or private basis."
But the need is keenest in major cities, and especially with the rollout of 3G phones. Coverage inside city buildings is poor, and hence the emphasis by TCC on the urban siting of these premises: "Bank of America retail banking centres offer opportunities to apply this kind of technology, because many of them are located in densely populated areas that have high cell phone usage." Unfortunately, these masts are becoming the target of popular anger, as home owners nearby see their property values affected. The reason for the devaluation is, partly, because the masts are "unsightly" but also because a significant section of the population believe they are being subjected to "radiation" - a bad word.
What the eye sees not, the heart cannot grieve over. The result is that most phone companies are turning to "stealth" masts to avoid confrontation with local communities.
Others, hoping that they can sway public sentiment, are embarking on large-scale philanthropic ventures with significant PR spending. But even so, it's unusual for anybody involved in the land grab for mast territory to go public with their strategy.
Mast urbanisation is usually done in private, and it is unlikely that many more releases like this will be seen. Instead, site owners will probably approach phone companies discreetly directly.
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