Tower takes step toward approval

If a proposal passes one more step, a tower could go up to help residents and businesses in rural areas of Jackson County receive Wi-Fi services.

Xstream Wireless in Brownstown recently received a favorable recommendation from the Jackson County Plan Commission to install a 140-foot tower east of Brownstown.

That request moves on to the Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals for review and a vote during its next meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. May 10 at the county planning and zoning office at 202 E. Walnut St., Brownstown.

Xstream Wireless applied for a special exception to construct the tower on land currently zoned A1 agricultural at 949 U.S. 50 East in Brownstown Township. The freestanding tower would be surrounded by a fence.

“The tower is going to let us expand. It’s going to let us do some higher-speed bandwidth packages for the customers,” said Keith Miller with Xstream Wireless. “We’re also trenching fiber from Seymour to that place if it gets approved. It would basically allow more bandwidth into Brownstown, too. We would be paying for part of that fiber to be ran.”

Plan commission member Dan Blann asked Miller to explain the fiberoptic line from Brownstown to Seymour.

“It carries quite a bit of data,” Miller said. “Each cell tower runs off a single fiber wire. It will cover up to 20, 30 miles away with people on one cell tower, depending on the line of sight.”

Miller said Xstream Wireless has another tower in the county that provides coverage from Medora to the Acme area and hits the edge of Brownstown.

Blann also pointed out an existing tower on the east edge of Brownstown. Miller said it’s a cell tower, and cell providers don’t allow co-location.

For now, Miller said Xstream Wireless would be the only company using the new tower.

“We’re actually looking into starting to service more public safety stuff, too,” he said, giving an example of emergency medical services. “We’re going to start talking to all of those guys and see if we can help them expand their coverage. That’s one idea we’ve had for this year.”

Noting five towers within a mile stretch south of Brownstown, Blann asked county attorney Susan Bevers if the county has any regulations on towers being in close proximity. Bevers said the county only regulates the height of towers, which is anything above 35 feet and in A1 zoning.

“I’m all for faster Internet. Who’s not?” Blann said. “I just wonder, there are a lot of (towers) going up. It just seems like they are spreading like wildfire across Jackson County. … It seems like every time somebody wants a piece of a different market share, they add a tower. It just seems like with the Internet, there’s getting to be more and more Internet providers, and they all want their own towers.”

Plan Commission President Curt Wischmeier said he has family members who live in a rural area and can’t get Internet access.

He said with people working from home, they can’t live in certain areas of Jackson County because of lack of Internet access.

“There are definitely a lot of places out there that do not have reception,” he said. “Our county is hurting due to the lack of communication.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.