Cellphone service is not all that bad around here — in February. That observation might depend on where you were at the time you wanted to make a call, but generally, you can get through and stay on the line long enough to have a decent conversation. Not so in June, July, or August, when even in the areas with good wireless reception text messages do not go through half the time. All this is pretty obvious, but we ask that you pause for a moment to think about what the overloaded system tells us about more than just being unable to scroll through your social media.
Wireless signal is like the rest of the South Fork’s infrastructure — under-designed and overtaxed. But unlike issues with the groundwater supply, its effects are obvious. Cellphones here are more like the roads, which are too narrow to adequately carry the load. Instead of getting mad at AT&T or Verizon, we might better look at ourselves. We were the ones content to elect and re-elect local officials who gave only lip service to limiting growth. Some years ago, a group of activists pushed for more preservation under the banner, “Save What’s Left.” We see now the cost of our inaction, and of having community leaders who ignored that plea.
Officials now believe that sticking a new cell tower here or there will solve the problem, but even if that were so, they are taking the easy way out by not confronting what got us to this point. Just as with the affordable housing crisis, the town will never be able to build its way out of the hole it has dug for itself. Officials and residents must talk honestly about the thousands of separate decisions that, taken together, have vast power to transform the landscape and overwhelm services they and visitors depend upon. Cellphone service is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine — only here, it seems that no one has made the connection.