Shortly after The Washington Post broke the “Cell-Phone Tower-gate” story — which suggests Verizon undertook considerable expense to begin the regulatory process for constructing a permanent cell-phone tower near Sedona, Ariz., on the remote estate of Sen. John McCain, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee — the telecommunications firm issued a flat denial of any improper behavior.
The story began in early 2007, when McCain’s wife, Cindy, made an online request for the company to improve service at the 15-acre property — which Peter Thonis, a Verizon spokesman, said was denied. However, as The Post article demonstrates, this is not exactly true.
On Sept. 18, 2007, a Mesa, Ariz., contractor working for Verizon surveyed the McCain property. Another contractor drafted blueprints (see document - note large file size) calling for moving a utility shed and installing a 40-foot tower with two antennas and a microwave dish, surrounded by a six-foot wooden fence.
Construction costs would be $22,000, records show. Industry specialists said the figure probably only covers the tower and fence because the antennas, the dish and power source would run the cost into the six figures. On Dec. 4, Cindy McCain signed a letter (see document) authorizing Verizon Wireless to act on her behalf to seek county land-use permits.
Coverage maps submitted by Verizon to the county show that the tower would fill gaps in unpopulated parts of Coconino National Forest and on about 20 parcels of land, including a handful of residences, and two small businesses open only by appointment.
The Atlantic’s Joshua Green acquired an internal map of the area, from a Verizon engineer’s report, that reveals the company was acutely aware of who owned the property being considered for a permanent tower:
Green also reports that Verizon commissioned an expensive environmental survey of the property, which required an archaeological study to ensure the tower would not be constructed on sacred Indian land.
As Green notes, the McCains may not have specifically requested a favor from the telecom company, but the evidence does seem to suggest that they were prepared to accept a big one.
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