Verizon, Washington Post spar on McCain cell tower

While they might more closely resemble goalposts, cell towers have become political footballs this week. The Washington Post suggested that Cindy McCain, wife of presidential hopeful John McCain influenced Verizon Wireless to have a cell tower built on her remote ranch site outside Sedona, Ariz. just as her husband was starting his bid for the presidency in early 2007. Verizon, in a subsequent email, called the story "wrong" and claimed it didn't take action until it was prodded by the Secret Service. The Post has now disagreed with that timeline and further said that a permit to build a permanent cell phone tower on the ranch is still in effect.

Verizon's response, as issued by spokesman Jeffrey Nelson in an email, is that the carrier "received a request from Mrs. McCain but declined. Subsequent to that, the Secret Service made a legitimate request for a temporary tower for its work and Verizon complied as is required by our contract with the agency." That request on May 28 said that "it needed the service urgently," the email said.

The Post disputed that timeline, pointing to interviews and county records that show Cindy McCain first sought better cell coverage in early 2007 and over the course of a year offered land for a permanent tower. In late 2007, the story continued, Verizon hired a firm to produce what turned out to be a 200-page environmental impact assessment and also hired contractors to prepare blueprints for a cell tower. According to the Post, Cindy McCain signed a contract with Verizon in early May and Verizon received emails from the Secret Service in late May after a regulatory hurdle delayed the permanent tower. Verizon thus provided a "cell site on wheels (COW)" but hung onto the permit for a permanent cell tower, which is still in effect through December--after the election, of course, even though Verizon has said it has no plans to build the permanent cell site.

For more:
- see this article

Related story:
See photos of what a COW looks like
McCain ranch got cell towers from Verizon, AT&T

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