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Pound Ridge Partnership Cell Program Helps Avert Crisis

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – When phone service went down in the Scotts Corners business district one weekend earlier this month, it could have spelled disaster for many of the businesses in the area.

“If I can’t get calls on Saturday and people think I’m closed, I could lose a lot of business,” said Charles Guilianti, owner of Salon Perri, a high-end salon that has been in town for more than 10 years. “Saturdays are the busiest day of the week.”

Thanks to a program offered by the Pound Ridge Partnership, Perri was able to cope, even though his landline would be out of service for several days.

For the past two years, courtesy of an anonymous $1,000 donation, the Pound Ridge Partnership has run a subsidy program in which it provides a $50 rebate to help businesses purchase a femtocell, a small, low-powered cellular base station designed for homes and small businesses.

“I called Verizon and had them forward all the salon calls to my cell phone, which I am able to get reception on due to the femtocell that I installed last year,” Guilianti said.

Michael Juchem, chair of the Pound Ridge Partnership’s cell phone and wifi committee, explained that the device is simply a mini cell tower that runs off a computer.

“It’s a great solution where there is no cell [service],” he said. “Femtocells are affordable and easy to install. If everyone had one, we wouldn’t need cell towers.”

According to Ali Boak, co-founder and board member of the Pound Ridge Partnership, lack of cell service in the Scotts Corners business district has been something that residents and business owners have brought to group’s attention since the Partnership began two years ago. It is what prompted the idea to subsidize a femptocell program to begin with.

“People wouldn’t come to Scotts Corners for a salon appointment because their kids couldn’t reach them, or they wouldn’t hold business meetings at restaurants there because their companies couldn’t reach them,” Boak said. “The femptocell is not perfect, but it’s an excellent solution while we wait for a cell tower that will provide adequate coverage in the area.”

So far, six businesses in Scotts Corners have joined the program and Boak said there is still some money left for others to take advantage. She said Juchem will act as a tech advisor to businesses looking to purchase the technology and talk them through the process of getting it up and running.

T-Mobile recently announced it was ready to move forward with plans to build a traditional cell town behind the Ambulance Corps building on Westchester Avenue. Meanwhile, business owners like Guilianti are thankful for their femtocells.

“The femtocell saved the day,” Guilianti said. “I would urge other businesses in town to contact the Partnership to learn more about getting a femtocell.”

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