County officials believe that the strategy to pursue cell phone infrastructure is wise in order to assist visitors to the county, but also to increase the services available to county residents. A large number of county residents in southern San Juan County live in dispersed housing on the Navajo Reservation, areas where traditional land line telephone service is unlikely to be provided in the foreseeable future. Making cell phone services available in these areas has become a high priority for the county.
The results to date have been impressive, with new cell phone towers installed and operating in Monument Valley, Mexican Hat and Blanding. In addition, negotiations are continuing for new towers on Abajo Peak, and in Aneth and Bluff.
The location of a cell tower in Bluff has caused a stir as local residents expressed concern about towers on the towering bluffs surrounding the community.
The prime partner with the county in expanding the infrastructure is Commnet, who is known for working in underserved, rural areas.
According to San Juan County, Commnet initially considered a leased site with existing towers south of Bluff on Navajo Nation land. However, the access road to the site was washed out so Commnet ruled out a tower at that site.
At that time, a new site east of Bluff above Cow Canyon was identified by Commnet. The site sits on state trust land. After a public meeting called by San Juan County, in which there was strong support for a site south of Bluff, the preferred location for the tower was moved back to the existing towers south of Bluff.
County officials state that negotiations are proceeding on the existing site, with site leasing and road improvements part of the negotiations.