Milestone Communications, Inc. is a Virginia-based firm with over 15 years of experience partnering with schools, parks, governments and utilities in siting wireless towers to provide local communities high-speed, wireless, broadband communication. Milestone currently operates in 35 cities, towns and school districts throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Milestone’s business model is unique in the wireless tower industry in that it is designed specifically to create public/private partnerships with municipalities and schools so they can financially benefit from the revenues generated by the placement and operation of local wireless towers. Government and school properties are preferred sites for bringing wireless coverage to communities because they are centrally located, have enough space to reduce the visual impact of towers on surrounding neighborhoods and have more amenable zoning for tower placement.
Given the public nature of such partnerships, Milestone is committed to high standards of safety, legal and regulatory compliance and a development process that far exceeds regulatory standards for communication and transparency.
The cooperation between Milestone and school districts throughout the Mid-Atlantic region is an excellent example of a public/private partnership that brings great benefits to all parties.
To meet local consumer demand for greater access to wireless and cellular broadband networks,1 wireless providers increasingly look for non-intrusive ways to extend greater network access to residential areas.
Of the potential sites available, government and school sites are preferable to communities because they are generally larger than private sites, have the potential to reduce the visual impact of the towers on the surrounding neighborhood, and have zoning codes amenable to siting a facility.
Schools and communities, in turn, benefit from the partnership by tapping into much needed revenue outside their local tax base. This can be a substantial resource to schools and communities as Milestone shares 40% of the gross receipts collected from wireless providers with its school and community partners.
In Milestone’s experience, on average each wireless facility generates over $400,000 for the schools over a ten-year period.2
Fairfax County, Virginia has 25 towers on school properties throughout the county, reflecting a broad economic spectrum of constituents. These include two towers in the exclusive Langley, Virginia neighborhood and one on the site of the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Engineering Magnet School. Since its inception in 2001 the wireless program has generated over 9.2 million dollars in revenue for Fairfax County Public Schools.
The science on the safety of cell tower emissions is clear: There is no reason to believe that wireless towers constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students. RF energy levels around cell towers are so low that they are a thousand times below the safety standard set by the Federal Communications Commission.
While public anxiety around cell tower safety over the past three decades has been understandable, it also has produced a wealth of research that should put to rest any remaining doubts about public safety and cell towers.
Here is a summary of the findings by the nation’s leading guardians of public safety:
“Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea. In theory, there are some important points that would argue against cellular phone towers being able to cause cancer.”
“Radiofrequency emissions from antennas used for cellular and PCS transmissions result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits. These safety limits were adopted by the FCC based on the recommendations of expert organizations and endorsed by agencies of the Federal Government responsible for health and safety. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students.”
“Studies thus far have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other tissues of the head or neck. More research is needed because cell phone technology and how people use cell phones have been changing rapidly.”
“Over the past 15 years, scientists have conducted hundreds of studies looking at the biological effects of the radiofrequency energy emitted by cell phones. While some researchers have reported biological changes associated with RF energy, these studies have failed to be replicated. The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between exposure to radiofrequency from a cell phone and health problems.”
“The RF exposures people experience from base stations are typically much lower than from cell phones because base station antennas are mounted on towers or other building structures and are thus substantially farther away from the public. Both cell phones and base stations are required to comply with FCC RF exposure guidelines.”
“From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations. Since wireless networks produce generally lower RF signals than base stations, no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to them.”
“Most studies have focused on the RF exposures of mobile phone users. Human and animal studies examining brain wave patterns, cognition and behaviour after exposure to RF fields, such as those generated by mobile phones, have not identified adverse effects.
“RF exposures used in these studies were about 1,000 times higher than those associated with general public exposure from base stations or wireless networks. No consistent evidence of altered sleep or cardiovascular function has been reported.”
Fairfax County Public Schools also recently undertook an independent study of the RF emissions from their sites and found that power density levels for exterior spaces near the towers were 121,793 times lower than the FCC standard.
The equipment compounds are generally about 2,500 square feet or less depending upon the specific site locations. Each compound is secured behind a locked gated fence. The tower is typically installed on a steel reinforced concrete caisson foundation approximately seven feet in diameter. Each wireless provider has a 10’ x 20’ area within the compound for the required ground equipment.
All wireless providers’ equipment is located inside the compound in either pre-manufactured shelters or in cabinets. All shelters and cabinets are securely locked within the locked and gated compound. This equipment may include back-up battery or generator systems to ensure continuity of voice, data and E911 service during power outages. Milestone and wireless providers comply with all local and federal regulations regarding identification and operation of equipment and materials located within the compound.
Inside the compounds are electric meter centers with individual metered electrical service independently billed to each wireless provider by the local power company. This electric service is 120 volts, similar to what people experience with residential service. Telecommunication and data services are provided by high-capacity, fiber-optic circuits. Power and telecommunication service is typically routed to the compound in underground conduits.
Milestone is compliant with all applicable building codes. Our facilities are constructed in accordance with the ANSI/TIA-222-G structural design standards, which meet the requirements of each local jurisdiction’s building code.
Being sensitive to the unique access and security issues associated with school and government locations, Milestone is diligent in vetting the qualifications of contractors performing work on Milestone sites.
In order to gain access to the site, the designated landowner contact will be notified at least 24 hours prior to a site visit or the commencement of construction. In the case of an emergency, the landowner is contacted if immediate access is required to allow wireless companies to service equipment on the facility to ensure continuity of voice, data and E911 service.
Wireless towers contain antenna panels that are two-way radios. They communicate by producing RF (radio frequency) energy at very low levels – so low that they require special equipment just to detect it.
RF energy from wireless towers should not be confused with “ionizing” radiation from other sources such as medical x-rays or microwave ovens. RF energy does not have enough energy to ionize – break apart or damage the biological materials in cells – and is referred to as “non-ionizing” radiation. Non-ionizing radio energy is all around us, emanating from TV, radio, Wi-Fi transmitters and baby monitors.
RF levels from the antenna are regularly analyzed and measured on all of Milestone’s sites. Studies of our sites show that RF levels were 1,000 times lower than the FCC threshold. And the FCC threshold is 50 times lower than levels that could cause harm.
Given the nature of its public/private partnership with municipalities and schools Milestone has created a development process that far exceeds regulatory standards for communication and transparency.
A dedicated website is launched for each site at the start of the notification process, which provides access to site information, meeting dates and useful links on cell tower safety. Milestone also works with local school leadership to discuss and coordinate notification, which may include outreach tools such as backpack announcements, school website postings, phone notification, e-alerts, Facebook posts, tweets or direct mailing to the homes of all registered students in the school communities.
Milestone also proactively schedules a community meeting for each site and includes the date and time of each meeting in its notification letters.
1 According to the National Center for Health Statistics, public dependence on cell phone technology continues to grow. Nearly two in five households (39.4%) have no landline telephone but at least one cellphone. This number jumps to 45% in households with children and 65% in households of residents aged 25-29 years old. In addition, public dependence on wireless telephones for 911 calls far surpasses those of landlines. In Prince George’s County alone, wireless made up 68.6 percent of the 911 calls made in 2013. Click to return to text
2 Assumes each wireless facility carries three wireless providers for a six-year period. Click to return to text
3American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/cellular-phone-towers. Click to return to text
4 Federal Communications Commission: https://www.fcc.gov/engineering-technology/electromagnetic-compatibility-division/radio-frequency-safety/faq/rf-safety#Q15. Click to return to text
5 National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet. Click to return to text
6 U.S. Food and Drug Administration https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/cell-phones/health-issues. Click to return to text
7 World Health Organization https://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/facts/fs304/en/. Click to return to text