A towering question: Where the cell do we put them all?

It's probably a task the Federal Communications Commission should have tackled 15 or 20 years ago, but we welcome the stated intention of county officials to develop a strategic plan aimed at slowing the proliferation of cell towers.

Since cellular telephones rely on these ungainly structures to relay voice and text signals, they are necessary to the functioning of our society as we know it, and will remain so at least until someone comes up with a less obtrusive technology.

The cell phone has become commonplace in Howard County and most other places in the industrialized world, and many of us take cell service for granted. But just try to put one of those towers within sight of someone's home and you'll have a scrap on your hands.

Some west county residents recently lost their campaign to keep T-Mobile from erecting one on a small farm off Daisy Road. But just because the Board of Appeals ruled in the phone company's favor in this instance doesn't mean the end of phone fights.

As long as telecom firms have to put up towers to keep up with the competition, and as long as homeowners see the towers as eyesores and a threat to property values, they will inspire legal battles. That means lawyers, litigation, negotiation and lots of time and money that homeowners and corporations alike would rather spend on other things.

What makes this situations several times worse than it probably should be is that each carrier maintains its own individual network and its own set of towers.

Now county officials say they want to develop a strategic plan to stem the tower-building boom. As part of that plan, the county would hire a company, or multiple companies, to build towers tall enough to serve multiple carriers. County officials would work to get carriers to lease space on those towers.

It's a fine idea. We're only sorry it didn't come along sooner.

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