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AT&T cell towers popping up unannounced

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UPDATE: The mayor's office announced Thursday that she has requested AT&T suspend construction of its new cell towers around the city. See the full update here: http://www.wbrz.com/news/mayor-tells-atandt-to-halt-construction-of-new-cell-towers-around-baton-rouge-120898

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BATON ROUGE - Small cell towers are popping up in neighborhoods in Baton Rouge. They're the property of AT&T and some people are not happy about the installation process.

"I really don't want it here," Nicole Smith said.

A couple of the towers went up in Shenandoah last week and they're about two blocks apart. The shiny black poles stand about 30 feet in the area and have various boxes attached to them. Smith and her neighbors say it was a shock to see them go up in their front yards and are concerned about what they'll do to their property values.

"They put the stake down maybe two months ago, we didn't know what it was," she said. "We thought it was a light pole."

She's been doing her own research and fears a significant property value decrease and health risks, but her immediate concern is that no one notified the neighborhood what was happening. After the stake went into the ground, the concrete was poured and then the tower was installed last week.

"Now here we are with one in our front yard and nobody contacted us," she said.

AT&T says with the rapid demand for wireless connectivity, small cells are needed to densify the wireless network and meet current consumer needs. It says the small cells prepare the foundation for the 5G future. The network is working under provisions passed by the Metro Council, which says that wireless communications providers can access the public right-of-way for installing infrastructure so long as the site has been approved by way of a permit. 

In an email from the City-Parish Monday afternoon, it's working to better notify the property owner should a cell tower be installed like it was in Smith's case.

"It's horrible. Look at it," she said.

AT&T says the small cells are low-profile, compact, scalable and unobtrusive. They are flexible network solutions that can be readily deployed to specific locations, including those where customers are prone to experience connectivity issues or in areas that cannot effectively be served by a traditional cell tower.

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