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January 23. 2014 8:54PM

AT&T pushes to keep cell tower information from being used at trial

MANCHESTER — AT&T has told a judge it doesn’t want lawyers for the city of Manchester to use information from the company’s own website in a future trial over the potential location of a cell phone tower in a residential neighborhood.The website information details the signal strength in a key area of south Manchester, an area where AT&T has said that the signal is weak enough that a new tower is needed.

However, maps on the website describe the area’s voice signal as moderate. The website said 4G LTE — the company’s super fast, reliable network — is available in the area.

“AT&T is trying to keep the court from hearing how the company speaks out of both sides of its mouth by keeping public advertisements out of the public record,” said Kathy Sullivan, a South Mammoth Road resident who has spoken against the tower.

But AT&T said the wireless coverage maps —available on www.att.com — are not relevant to the case and have nothing to do with the “significant gaps” that exist in the area.

“The maps on our coverage viewer depict a high-level approximation of wireless coverage — not granular neighborhood by neighborhood coverage detail — and include clear disclosures and links to detailed information about what the maps represent,” wrote AT&T New England spokesman Will Keyser in an email.AT&T has filed suit against the city of Manchester in federal court, challenging past decisions by the Manchester Zoning Board of Adjustment to reject a 100-foot tower off South Mammoth Road near Green Acres School.The Zoning Board did so most recently in September, and the case has returned to U.S. District Court in Concord.

Neighbors have said the tower would be an eyesore, diminish property values and could pose health problems.

The company has said the federal Telecommunications Act gives it the right to override local ordinances to improve wireless coverage.

A trial before Judge Steven McAuliffe has not been scheduled, but lawyers for both sides have filed briefs and pre-trial paperwork in the case.

On Jan. 6, city lawyer Peter R. Chiesa filed paperwork to introduce the website maps.

A week later, AT&T lawyer Stephen Anderson objected. Anderson said Chiesa had missed a deadline, and the material was prejudicial.

Anderson said AT&T had submitted actual drive test results and testimony from highly qualified experts demonstrating coverage gaps and problems.

The coverage problems are due to inadequate signal strength, terrain, and network demands — wording that is part of disclaimers that accompany the website maps.“The high-level website maps are therefore both consistent with AT&T’s trial presentation and immaterial given the more specific drive test results and expert testimony already in evidence concerning the area of the proposed facility,” Anderson writes.He said AT&T’s expert had no opportunity to explain how his work matches that of the website. At the very least, the lawyer said, the judge should allow the website disclaimers into the trial.

mhayward@unionleader.com