NEW ORLEANS — Let’s say it’s Carnival season. You’re in the French Quarter and in a crowd. You pull out your cellphone to try to text or use an app -- and nothing happens.
It’s frustrating, and that could soon change -- but it could also change the look of the Quarter.
There was a time when electricity was new and power lines were strung across the Quarter’s historic streets.
But that was decades ago. Everything’s underground now.
New Orleans is not like many other cities. And our old neighborhoods are part of the reason.
Millions of visitors come here every year to see them. But they want to use their cellphones, and they want fast, reliable service.
5G technology could make that happen. But to get that? Imagine 35-40 foot towers on nearly every single corner in the Quarter.
City leaders have their concerns.
During recent budget hearings, the city’s utility department discussed 5G. It’s not just the Quarter where you could see these poles popping up.
“Do the math. A city like New Orleans, 350 miles, three major carriers … it gives us about 63,000 poles,” Jonathan Rhodes, director of the Mayor's Office of Utilities told the council. “There are 43,000 street lights in the entire city of New Orleans.”
Councilmembers asked if there’s a chance that as the new poles are built, the old ones come down. The short answer: no.
Officials told the council to think of cars. Even if electric cars become more commonplace in the coming years, there’ll still be gas stations around to fill up cars that need fuel.
It’ll be easier to install new 5G poles in newer areas like the Poydras Street corridor.
But the council doesn’t want the new technology to only show up in the CBD and tourist areas.
“If we do that, that would be a slap in the face to the neighborhoods in all the districts who also want and need this deployment,” Councilman Jason Williams said.
The city plans to give an update on the French Quarter 5G plan next week during the Vieux Carre Commission meeting.