The finishing touches were recently put on a new island cell phone tower that is expected to improve reception for residents on the east end.
Although the land surrounding the tower on Donax Street is owned by the City of Sanibel, the device itself is owned and operated by Verizon Wireless. The lease was originally authorized by the city in 2011 but Verizon didn't begin construction until this year.
City Manager Judith Zimomra said the city made a condition in the lease agreement forcing Verizon to allow other carriers to offer service on the new tower, in order to prevent the company from having a monopoly on the island.
Work is complete on the new cell tower on Donax Street. CORKY BOYD.
She said that many islanders, like many people worldwide, have chosen wireless cellphones as their primary means of communication over traditional landlines.
"There are definitely more people on Sanibel now who have given up their landlines, but that's not unique on Sanibel," she said.
The problem that some islanders experienced was a lack of reception and no other means to contact the outside world, which became problematic if they worked from home or needed to make an emergency phone call.
"They are looking for reliable coverage," said Zimomra.
Verizon has told the city that they believe the new tower, which is disguised as a flag pole, will improve reception.
During the March 4 Sanibel City Council meeting, Council Member Jim Jennings said the tower's height may be a little high for some residents, but it was needed to improve communication on the island.
"The cell tower is up and there are better communications for that area by Beachview," said Jennings. "We need to have good communication for people who might have problems."
The island already has two other cell towers in operation, including one behind the Sanibel Post Office and the other on Wulfert Road.
Vikki Ross, a resident of Sanibel Estates on the east end, is one homeowner who opted to use a cellphone rather than a landline, but found that calls with clients were being occasionally dropped.
"I have been a frustrated cell phone user," said Ross. "I saw it the other day, coming across the causeway, and I was thrilled. This is the best thing and it's about time."
She said the third tower on Donax was needed in order for the signal to triangulate across the island, and so far, she said reception appears to be better.