BROAD TOP CITY, HUNTINGDON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ)– Broadtop City now has additional broadband. Located in southeastern Huntingdon County, just behind the Eagles Ness Inn off Broad Street, is a new AT&T tower that went online about two months ago.
Thursday, WTAJ spoke with local residents and first responders on the impact of a new cell tower in a rural area.
First responders said it’s helping to keep response times down, and locals said they fell safer knowing they can dial 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
There’s also hope that the added cell service will bring more tourism to the area.
The story is below:
Cell phone service is often hard to come by in rural portions of Southeastern Huntingdon County… but a relatively new cell phone tower hopes to change that.
“The location of this new cell site was determined by feedback from state and local public safety officials to fill a coverage gap, said Daniel Langan, Spokesperson for AT&T Pennsylvania,”PA’s first responders deserve reliable coverage to effectively address an emergency incident. That’s what this site will offer.”
The tower is part of the “FirstNet” network, a public-private partnership project to improve cellphone coverage for first responders across the United States… especially in rural areas.
“Prior to cell towers, it was a real hit and miss game,” said Adam Watson, Public Information Officer for the Robertsdale Fire Company, “one of the firefighters would say I know where this is at, follow me… that’s all we had back then.”
Watson said with cell towers, it’s less of a guessing game.
“It has a great impact now, because we have the ability to get texts from Huntington County Dispatch,” he said.
Those texts inform emergency crews exactly where they’re going and they can then find out the best way to travel to an emergency location.
This helps to save first responders time– “I’d say five-to-15 minutes quicker,” Watson said.
And lives–“there’s no frustration of trying to figure out where you’re going. That’s where the technology comes in,” Watson added.
He said fire crews have an easier time locating a scene without technology–since they often can spot smoke. However he said, EMS calls can be difficult to pinpoint without cell service.
“People don’t always have house numbers or street numbers–that helps immensely when it’s somewhere in the middle of nowhere—places that we’re not always aware of,” Watson said.
He added that while a new cell tower makes pinpointing locations easier, he acknowledged that it would take many more cell towers to give everyone service in the area…something he knows isn’t feasible right now.
“We’re in a mountainous area where no matter what you do you’re not gonna be able to reach everybody—there’s too many peaks and valleys,” Watson said.
Locals who have AT&T as a cell service provider said what matters most to them right now is an extra sense of security.
“I can call 9-1-1 now from my cellphone, and before I couldn’t do that,” said Cindy Adolphson, who’s also the Manager of Our Place Convenience Store in Broadtop City.
She said the new cell tower could help put the store “on the map”, attracting new customers.
“Customers say that it shows up now on some of their GPS’s because they receive coverage up here now. Traffic has picked up–they say ‘hey since we were here last summer, we now have coverage”,” Adolphson said.
She feels tourists are more likely to come and stay in a place with stronger cell phone service.
“There are people coming and saying, ‘is there a bed and breakfast in the area–we now have coverage, we’re not afraid to miss calls from our family…and stay in the area'”, Adolphson said.
Some locals expressed concern with the range of the new AT&T tower. WTAJ asked the company for details on the tower’s range, so far the station has not heard back.