Lewis Strategic, Dellicker Strategies and Business Information Group form the AcceleratePA coalition. The private sector effort brought gigabit-speed internet, which transfers information at a rate of a billion bits per second, to Monroe County in 2017.
“Cell service is hard to do, especially in a county that has so many hills and valleys,” Lewis said.
But it can be life or death, as the vast majority of 911 calls are made from cell phones.
Picture it: “You’re on a side road and you have an accident, and no car saw you go off the road. You’re sitting there and you can’t use your cell phone. You can’t even call your family, you can’t call 911,” Lewis said.
The dead zones aren’t limited to “the middle of the furthest thing,” he said. “Some places are pretty close to town.”
Cell coverage isn’t just key to emergency services.
“We’re 70 miles from Manhattan. We’re on Route 80, one of the busiest roads in the country,” Lewis noted. Tourists and the transportation industry are “expecting superior cell service.”
The Monroe County Dead Cell Zone Project survey conducted in the fall garnered responses about numerous problem areas, some as specific as a street address or the small borough of Delaware Water Gap, others as broad as all of Barrett Township.
“We drove around the county to actually look at some of the identified areas, because some were pretty broad,” Lewis said. It turned out Barrett Township did have “a lot of areas without cell service.”
Meetings about the project should be announced soon. Lewis is focused on two areas right now: putting political pressure on the cellular industry, and asking local governments to identify spots that might make good cell tower sites.
The list of dead zones has been shared with state legislators and the cellular industry, and Lewis, a former state representative, wants legislators to push the industry for solutions to dead zones. In turn, citizens can urge their legislators to work on the issue.
“The industry is sensitive to the political process,” Lewis said. It wants a bill passed regarding the “deployment strategy” of 5G, the latest generation of wireless technology.
He’s expecting the Super Bowl to be “dominated by 5G commercials,” even as rural areas are still seeking basic cell coverage.
As for identifying potential tower locations, Lewis said it’s “a great home run” when an organization like a volunteer fire department offers space and gets revenue in return.
″$12,000 a year is a lot of hoagie sales,” he said.