Faster cell service coming to Amarillo at high cost to city - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Faster cell service coming to Amarillo at high cost to city

Source: KFDA Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA Source: KFDA

Cell phone users in Amarillo could start getting better service, but it may come at a cost for taxpayers.

The state of Texas is working to get all cell phone users up to a faster, 5G data speed.

Several cell phone carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, have already expressed interested in installing small cell nodes in the city.

These are pieces of equipment about three feet high that are able to reach cell phone users and provide faster, more high speed data.

They can be attached to existing structures, like telephone or light poles, or built as their own structures.

Most of these would go on city rights-of-way, which is no change from what's happening now with power and phone lines.

What's changing is the cost.

"The state mandated that the cities give access to the right-of-way with defined fees," said Floyd Hartman, Director of Capital Projects for the City of Amarillo. "This nowhere compared to the franchise fees that were utilized in the past for utilities to access rights-of-way.

Under new state legislation, the phone companies could lease these locations for $250 each, as opposed to paying a much higher franchise fee to the city as they do now.

Hartman said this slash in prices statewide could cost cities around $1 billion combined in funding.

The money brought in from those fees was vital to maintenance around Amarillo.

"It's pretty significant when you have over 100 square miles in the City of Amarillo with all the rights-of-way we have to manage," said Hartman.

Those fees paid for lighting, street and sidewalk repairs, among other things.

"We'll either be paid with that minimal fee or subsidize from existing funding in the city," said Hartman. "So something else will suffer."

There's no word yet when companies will begin installing the small cell nodes.

Design guidelines need to be approved by the city council first, and that's expected to happen this month.

Those lay out where poles can and cannot be installed throughout the city, with the goal of making the installations as aesthetically blended as possible.

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