Developers have approved construction of a new cell tower at the Snow Bowl to be placed to the right of the top of the Worth Mountain chair lift. Development has been behind schedule and will likely occur next year before the start of the 2022 ski season.
About two years ago, FirstNet, formally known as the First Responder Network Authority of the United States, approached Middlebury’s Director of Business Services Matt Curran with the prospect of building the tower. The company puts cell phone towers in signal dead-zones in order to improve communication for first responders. According to Curran, their research found that the Snow Bowl was an ideal location as it will help extend coverage onto Route 125 and into Hancock and Ripton, current dead-zones for first responders.
The lease has been finalized, but construction has been stalled.
“The goal was for it to be completed by Nov. 1, 2021, as of now they haven't put in a single shovel in the ground,” Curran said. “They have run into difficulty finding contractors and the equipment needed to get the tower up the mountain.”
While the primary goal is to increase coverage for first responders, FirstNet is also partnered with AT&T and will expand coverage for users in the area.
“Our assumption is that while AT&T will operate the tower, they will also lease out other spots of the tower to other national carriers,” Curran said.
Curran hopes that the tower will provide better cell service for the Bread Loaf campus, the Snow Bowl and for drivers on Route 125 going up and down the mountain. The tower’s coverage will likely cover from Route 100 in Hancock up through the Ripton general store.
“Cell phone service at the Snow Bowl isn't great and at Bread Loaf service is spotty at times. I think it's a great thing for our community,” Curran said.
The tower at the Snow Bowl is one of four FirstNet towers that AT&T is contracted to build in White River Valley towns. The towers have also met some resistance in the towns covered by the project, with residents citing concerns about environmental impacts, visual impacts on the landscape and reduced property values.
Curran is excited about the project and doesn’t think it will be an eye-sore.
“You will probably be able to see it from a few spots in Ripton… but it's not going to be a huge tower,” he said.
Lily Jones ’23 is an online editor and senior writer.
She previously served as a Senior News Writer and SGA Correspondent.
Jones is double majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. She also is an intern for the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs and on the ultimate frisbee team.