5G light pole exhibits planned in the French Quarter

Public exhibits of proposed 5g cell phone tower designs that look like light poles will be held in various parts of the French Quarter on Wednesday and Thursday.

The exhibits will be held Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. near 816 N. Rampart St. and Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. near the corner of Chartres and Ursuline streets.

The proposed designs are part of efforts by various city agencies and organizations, including the Vieux Carre Commission, New Orleans Department of Utilities, the French Quarter Management District and Business Association and the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates to mitigate the impacts a 5G network would have on the “tout ensemble,” or the unique design of the neighborhood.

5G, or fifth generation, is the newest technology standard for broadband cellular networks that are planned to succeed 4G networks and are expected to bring greater bandwidth and faster download speeds.

The towers achieve highers speeds by broadcasting higher-frequency waves at shorter ranges.

More than 800,000 towers are planned across the U.S. by 2026, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The middle tower is the current proposed design for 5G cell phone antennas in the French Quarter. Courtesy of the City of New Orleans.

Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act passed in 1996 forbids jurisdictions from banning the placement of cell phone towers in a particular area, effectively forcing local governments to adopt the technology.

However, in August 2019, a D.C. appeals court overturned a March 2018 order by the FCC that eliminated environmental and historic preservation review.

The ruling re-established the section 106 review process of the National Historic Preservation Act (passed in 1966), giving local governments the power to control the design and location of the towers.

On July 30, the Mayor’s Office of Utilities and the VCC held a public informational meeting on 5G technology, including proposed designs.

A city presentation on 5G and proposed designs released in July can be viewed here.

The towers are modeled on the existing 16-foot street lamps throughout the French Quarter, but four feet taller. At least one prototype is designed by Toro Blanco Group, a Dallas-based architectural and engineering firm.

Officials are currently accepting feedback from the public on the tower designs, which can be submitted here.