11 January 2014

cellular antenna sites and pervasive connectivity on the road

Powerlines, cellular antenna site in the distance, and tall roadside signage  intended to be visible from auto-bound passerby on I-81. Taken from a Sunoco gas station. January 2014.

While connection to a cellular network is typically represented as either the signal bars on a mobile phone/smartphone's screen, or via providers' coverage maps (see the maps of coverage from: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint). Outside of cities the areas of strong cellular coverage follow major highways and freeways across the United States, which makes some sense given that the majority of users in less-densely populated areas are traveling through (the lack of coverage in rural areas as an issue of digital inclusion, like the lack of rural broadband accessibility, is another topic entirely). For the mapping app to locate the vehicle as a blue dot on a screen, passing by at seventy miles an hour, or the social media to load to alleviate a moment of boredom, necessitates these tall, slender pieces of telecommunications infrastructure to be located alongside the transportation corridors.

These photos are from just north of the Mason-Dixon Line in south-central Pennsylvania. 

In the past, in this farming area barn silos were probably the tallest built elements found in the landscape...

...but now cellular antenna sites stand much taller. I-81 corridor, south central Pennsylvania. January 2014. The sunset light striking the barns and towers, and the pinks and soft blues in the background, make the towers stand out even more.

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