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Hiding Cell Phone Towers as Flagpoles

Last modified: 2007-08-25 by phil nelson
Keywords: cell phone towers | flagpoles |
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From the news:

Action News
Explanation of Flag in Johnson City
Grant Greenberg
Dec 29, 2002, 20:41

Action News has had numerous calls asking about the huge American Flag in Johnson City. Well, it's an AT&T Cell Phone Tower.

Johnson City Mayor Harry Lewis says the Village and AT&T agreed that if the company was going to put up a pole to cover the tower, it needed a flag. And that's how the 20 by 30 foot American Flag got its new home.

Mayor Lewis says the pole is on Village property and AT&T is paying $1,100.00 a month to rent the space.

story contributed by Phil Nelson, 3 January 2003

In Calvert County some time ago one of the cellular companies decided to put up an antenna to improve transmissions - the only way they could get it approved was to have it used as a "flagpole" which would not be an eyesore.

So, when you see a flagpole, you now have to ask "is it a flagpole or a cellular antenna with a flag?"
Phil Nelson, 2 January 2003

There's a similar arrangement on a cellular antenna tower in southern Fairfax County, Virginia. It looks atrocious--the flag is clearly an afterthought, since it isn't even centered on the top of the tower, and the whole thing comes across (to me at least) as quite disrespectful. Talk about misusing the flag for commercial purposes!
Joe McMillan, 2 January 2003

Whilst researching some information for a client, I came across this interesting pastime, which is possibly even more esoteric than vexillology, if that is possible.

This man has a whole set of photographs of GSM and 3G mobile telephone base stations throughout the United Kingdom, two of which are disguised as flagpoles:

Orange flagpole site on church at Betws-y-Coed, Wales

Unnamed location of another Orange flagpole site

Orange is the brand name of one of the mobile telephone networks in the United kingdom.

It is very common in this country for them to be disguised as trees and other objects, particularly as campaigns gather ground against the siting of them in middle class residential areas on the grounds of visual amenity and close to schools, on the grounds of alleged health risks. However, this is the first instance I have seen of them being disguised, according to the web site, in each instance, as a set of two flagpoles. It is notable that there is a set of two flagpoles, where ordinarily there would only be one flagpole. It is also not known whether the flagpoles are actually capable of flying flags.

Source: Mike P's UK GSM & 3G Pages, Digital mobile phones in the UK, web site <>, stated to be last updated 23 October 2005 and consulted 24 April 2007
Colin Dobson, 24 April 2007

Interestingly enough, the US flag code, an unenforceable set of regulations largely reflecting the rules adopted by the military, says emphatically that a flagpole may NOT be used for any other purpose than to display the flag ... specifically excluding use as a radio antenna. (Of course, this rule is rourtinely broken at sea, where masts and yards always serve serveral functions aboad ship!) The code also says, by the by, that one may not affix an advertising placard to a flagpole, or use a flag for advertising any commercial enterprise ... also a point stretched, at the very least, by virtually every motor-car dealership in the US -- their argument being, of course, that they are merely showing their patriotism (ironic in view of the current situation in which the majority of automobiles sold in the US have either been manufactured off-shore or by firms headquartered in other nations than the US).
Bill Dunning, 24 April 2007

Right. Of course, the situation in the U.K. described by Colin (and I know of at least one further example near me in Bristol) is of mobile phone masts designed to *look like* flagpoles. It's not clear whether they could actually function as flagpoles, and I very much doubt whether a mobile phone mast has ever been used to fly a flag. (And if it was, would that be the same as a flagpole being used as a mobile phone mast?
André Coutanche, 25 April 2007