Stephen Bloch and his wife moved to Stonybrook Road in 2002. He’s a partner in a Westport venture capital firm. In an earlier career, he was a practicing physician.
The Blochs have spotty cell service at home. There’s a dead zone in the area, not far from Earthplace.
Verizon wants to enhance coverage. You’d figure the Blochs would be happy.
They are anything but.
The company plans to put a mini-cell tower on a utility pole in the couple’s front yard, 60 yards from their home. Verizon says that’s the best place for it.
The Blochs — and their neighbors — disagree.
Bloch — who, you will recall, has a medical degree — is concerned about possible biological effects of radio frequency waves emitted by the mini-tower.
And — just as disturbing — Bloch says that Verizon refuses to share any technical details about performance and safety of the devices.
“There’s no information about shielding, direction of the beam – nothing.”
“We’ve gotten no specs” from the company, he adds. “So we can’t even tell whether it’s compliant” with existing laws and regulations.
Bloch notes that current rules were written for large cell towers — not these new mini ones.
“Whenever I ask, all they say is, ‘We follow FCC regulations,'” Bloch says. “I’ve asked them to demonstrate the need for these. I’ve never gotten any answers.”
Bloch says there was “a big uproar” in Palo Alto when Verizon proposed a similar mini-tower. Ultimately, he says, the utility got what it wanted.
“They want to do this here by fiat,” says Bloch. They hide behind legal precedent, and a weak appeals process.”
The appeals process requires them to spend a day at Public Utilities Regulatory Agency headquarters in New Britain. They’re slated to meet December 15. Verizon must appear that day too.
But, Bloch says exasperatedly, “Just getting that appointment was incredibly difficult.”
He says there is only one other similar mini-cell tower in Westport: in front of Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach. That’s much further away from any homes than Verizon’s proposed Stonybrook site.
First selectman Jim Marpe and town attorney Ira Bloom have written letters supporting the Blochs, and helped propose alternative pole locations either on public land or further away from houses. But, Bloch says, “Verizon will not consider it.”
He doesn’t think Verizon will listen on December 15 either. But, he notes, “PURA has to consider public comment.”
He doesn’t expect Westporters to flock to New Britain to support him and his wife, in their battle against a large utility company.
But, he says, “we welcome public comment on ‘06880.’”