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New Castle County is taking a step to address cellular coverage gaps

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

Better cellular service is coming to New Castle County as it seeks to address coverage gaps.

“Everyone should have access to cellular data. They should have access in their homes, and they should have access in their workplaces. We've known this for a long time, but it was highlighted to all of us during COVID when to go to work, to go to school, and to some extent to play, you had to have cellular access,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer.

The county is seeking bids for construction and service of three new cellular towers in the county - an effort to meet the increasing need for reliable cellular service for residents using technology in their everyday life and to bolster the county’s emergency response capabilities.

This announcement comes just a week after severe thunderstorms and straight-line winds caused severe damage and power outages across New Castle County.

NCC Chief of Technology & Administrative Services Mike Hojnicki says reliable cellular service is critical in emergency situations when first responders rely on it to communicate and dispatch services.

“Cell towers are traditionally built with some resiliency, with some backup power and communication capability,” he explained. “So should the local lines or your phone lines go down, or power goes out, the towers are normally self-sufficient and can stay online and provide critical cellular service.”

Signage informing the public of the plan will be put up on the proposed parcels.
Department of Administrative Services
New Castle County Government
Signage informing the public of the plan will be put up on the proposed parcels.

One new tower will be in the Hockessin area, with the other two going near Middletown and Oddessa.

The locations were chosen based on analysis of coverage areas and census data - looking for areas with the highest population and the least amount of coverage

The towers will be built using $1.3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“We’re not sure of the exact cost and that's part of the RFP process. Carriers come back with a proposal and say ‘this is our cost to expedite, and this is cost to build’ and the ongoing maintenance operation will be their responsibility,” said Hojnicki. “So that is the bucket of money that'll be distributed across. And hopefully if there's funds left over we can build a fourth tower.”

Hojnicki adds the towers will be built on public land to help offset construction costs and expedite the providers’ ability to build towers that can support multiple carriers.

The Request for Proposal deadline is September 6th.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.