Verizon antennas delayed

The University and Verizon Wireless have yet to reach an agreement to land a cell phone antenna site atop Funger Hall, despite the phone company’s announcement of the plan in September. Verizon officials said the addition would dramatically improve cell phone service across campus.

The antenna site would be mounted on a machine room located on the roof of the 2201 G St. academic building. Verizon had originally planned to have the antennas operational by December. Even though Verizon Wireless said it has received all the necessary permits from the city to install the site, no agreement has been made with the University, which owns the building.

“The University has neither granted nor denied permission for the antenna,” said Ron Bonig, deputy chief information officer of GW Information Systems and Services. “Counsels for both parties are working on an agreement acceptable to both entities.”

The University would not give specific information on the proposed agreement or reasons for its delay, but Bonig said GW is reviewing all aspects of the agreement.

“Counsels for both parties are resolving liability and indemnification issues,” Bonig said. “In a situation like this, prior to entering an agreement both parties will thoroughly analyze all potential risks.”

Bonig dismissed the notion that the agreement was delayed due to monetary considerations.

“The University’s main reason for entering into any of these agreements is to improve service,” Bonig said. “Any lease payments would be very small and are not considered a factor, only safety and service are being considered.”

Verizon’s proposed antenna plan is similar to many others in downtown D.C, said John Johnson, Verizon Wireless spokesman. The plan would install 12 antennas on the side of the rooftop machine room, each painted to match the color of the building and none extending above the height of the machine room.

“It is very difficult to see these antenna from the street level,” Johnson said. The largest of the antennas would be less than eight feet tall and two feet wide.

Johnson said the major advantage to installing the antenna system would be to improve Verizon Wireless cell phone service across campus but especially in and around the GW Hospital and inside buildings.

“If we can place this site, we can fulfill the University’s vision of improved service in a majority of campus and in and around the hospital,” Johnson said.

The nearest Verizon cell antennas are several blocks away, allowing for sufficient coverage outdoors, but limited coverage inside buildings, Johnson said.

In 2004 the University conducted a cell phone service study in which the quality of service for six cell phone carriers was tested over a three-day period. The University found that areas around Ross Hall and New Hall at 2350 H St. consistently had “fair” reception on Verizon and other cell phone carriers, while the majority of the rest of the campus had “good” service.

Bonig said cell phone service across campus is “not universally adequate,” but that the University “neither sells cell phones nor engineers the carriers’ solutions.”

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