The handwringing over the prospects of allowing telecommunication towers in state parks and forests is overwrought. Several environmental groups have joined in calling for the proposal, which would allow the state to approve towers and charge rental fees, to be stripped from the Act Modernizing the State's Telecommunications Laws.
For many, wireless communication has become essential to modern life. Any state that wants to compete economically must assure reliable wireless services. The demand will continue to grow and, for now at least, that means more towers. They have to go somewhere.
Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, a member of the Energy and Technology Committee who wants the provision removed, describes perhaps a worst-case scenario, Harkness Memorial State Park. A large tower, even one disguised as some type of flora, would detract from the beauty of the flat, coastal and relatively small park. But would a disguised tower in a remote section of the large Pachaug Forest, or on state parkland abutting a highway, be unacceptably intrusive?
If there is a problem with the bill, it is that it goes too far. It would declare that telecommunication towers are "deemed to be a public purpose not in conflict with park or forest purposes."
Well, in some cases they would be in conflict and in others they may not.
There needs to be a defined process, including public input, to debate whether the location of a proposed tower would conflict with the purpose of a particular park or forest. As now written, the proposal gives licensing authority to the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The governor would also have to sign off.
Advances in communication technology hold out the promise of helping to reduce stress on the environment; a person, for example, using a smartphone to turn on the air conditioning only when about to head home. The ability to do work and transmit information from anywhere is reducing travel and fossil fuel use.
But the technology cannot work without the infrastructure.