What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor

Recent feedback makes me think some folks view the Highlands Plateau as a sovereign nation where citizens control everything. On the other hand, current situations remind me that is not the case. In the discussion concerning tractor-trailer-trucks on the Gorge Road, several people have told me Highlands should ban those trucks from coming to Highlands, period. More than once it has been suggested to me that tractor trailer trucks should be directed to a transfer center in either Dillard or Franklin to off-load cargo destined for Highlands. Small trucks would then make deliveries to Highlands. In addition to being complicated and expensive, it would be illegal according to U.S. and North Carolina law, not to mention constitutional freedom of movement rights. Highlands has no authority to regulate interstate commerce, nor transportation rules. The tractor trailer trucks pay federal and state licensing fees that allow them to travel on any federal, state or municipal public road. The only exception, as in the case of the Gorge Road, is public safety. Now I am not an employee, owner, or investor in the trucking industry, nor do I work for NCDOT. I’m simply stating reality, we can not dictate who comes to and passes through our community. Another example concerns the deployment of G5 broadband, also known as small cell technology. It involves installing units about the size of big electrical transformers with antennas on power poles every several hundred feet apart throughout a community. One citizen recently wrote a letter to the editor stating we did not want this intrusive smart technology in our community. The problem is that it is not our decision to make. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission approved an order on September 26 containing sweeping regulations, many of which severely limit the regulatory authority of municipalities and counties. Limitations on local fee structures, implementation procedures and aesthetic requirements all fall under this FCC ruling. For Highlands to say we are not going to allow this technology is prohibited. Thank goodness we couldn’t ban telephone lines in 1914, nor power poles and lines in 1929. Furthermore, within the next 20 years the feds and state will regulate the related use of automated vehicles. I am hopeful that our forthcoming fiber optic network will help the town manage the emergence of G5 technology more effectively than other communities. The fiber optic network would promote the use of small antennas on our utility poles without the need for those large and unsightly transmission units that will be used in many areas of the county. Because we will have a cost effective alternative, I believe we will be able to work with G5 providers in the coming decade. While the deployment of the G5 system may be alarming to some, there are potential benefits. The reliance on cell towers, structures detested by many, could be diminished. Also, the G5 system could be economically deployed in areas that now have no, or little, broadband access, case in point most of Western Carolina. It would eventually reduce the need for large bundles of copper wires that currently adorn our utility poles. A significant portion of my duty is to work with these outside entities. I don’t work for them, but rather work with them in securing the best outcome for our community. Or, we could secede from the United States and create our own “plateau nation.” The last time that was attempted resulted in tragic consequences. To paraphrase John Donne, no community is an island, no community stands alone.

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