The Cambrian

Viewpoint: Practicalities, not idealism, driving Cambria decision-making

Television producer Stephen Pullin’s Viewpoint ( “What kind of place could, should Cambria be?” April 1, http://bit. ly/aJXUbJ) stated, “The baby boom generation wants to come to Cambria ... home owners will demand, up-to-date infrastructure.”

I presume the infrastructure he is referring to is cell phone service. Charter cable offers 6GB internet service and I have a 3MB at my home. Carriers will up that service as it is demanded.

I have all the water I choose to pay for and the apparent effects of global warming don’t include drought.

There are two myths regarding cellular telephone service in Cambria I would like to dispel:

Myth 1: Cambria has no appreciable cell service

Cambria has cell service, but not for people who come from Los Angeles with the first generation phones that work in radio bands used by AT&T, Verizon etc. There is only one cell tower for those old devices on a hill about 2 miles south of town. Coverage for L.A. phones is spotty in the East Village and into the woods. Coverage is virtually nonexistent in West Village. The Cambria Pines Lodge installed a repeater for first-generation phones which provides coverage for L.A. phones in that area.

The most reliable cell service in Cambria is provided on later generation phones operating in a higher band, specifically a service provided by Cellular One. There is a concealed cellular site at the corner of Main Street and Burton Drive. It provides good service to East Village. Another cellular site at the Catholic Church provides coverage to West Village.

Coverage in the residential areas is spotty or nonexistent. That is because of physics. Cell transmissions don’t go well through trees. To overcome that limitation, something like 10 cell towers would have to be located throughout the residential areas.

Myth 2: ‘NO-Growthers’ and environmentalists are keeping cell service from Cambria

Carriers are not providing service in Cambria because they do not perceive the traffic demand justifies the investment. Cellular companies paid Cambria Community Services District to lease a site on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve for several years without presenting plans for approval. It was apparently not as desirable an investment for the carriers as other options they had. The coverage was to “squint” up and down Highway 1 to pick up vehicular traffic. The frequency band was to be the same as Cellular One: LA phones in the first generation band (AT&T, Verizon etc.) would not have been able to use the service.

When community interests opposed the tall cellular tower because it was on a nature preserve, the carrier was advised by the county to consider other modern technologies with less apparent antennas. They abandoned the project. Presumably, they had more profitable places to make capital investments.

Cambria’s North Coast Advisory Council has approved projects to build cell sites in other places without opposition of “NOGrowthers” and environmentalists described by Pullin. One such project site is located in Tin City, the light industrial, service and retail area off Village Lane. It was approved in 2009 without opposition.

Carriers do not build cell sites as a public service. They build sites to sell cellphone minutes. They do not build cell sites unless they would be used a lot every day. People who advocate cell coverage for emergencies (e. g. when storms cause the loss of regular telephone service) do not understand that infrequent demand for cellphone- minutes will not pay for a cell site.

Cambria resident Ken Renshaw is co-chairman of the Cambria FireSafe Focus Group.