US Cities are saying no to 5G Small Cell Antennas


Communities across the US are objecting to small cell sites in residential areas over concerns of aesthetics, property values and health according to the Wall Street Journal. Cities and towns in Northern California are issuing ordinances that would exclude the 5G cell sites from residential areas, citing supposed health concerns.

Mill Valley, an upscale town in Northern California’s Marin County, was among one of the first communities to object to the small-cell 5G wireless towers within town limits last year. Residents claim that the pizza box-sized small cell antennas which are placed on utility poles close to homes, could become a health issue and potentially damage property values in the future.

While there is little evidence to support that 5G radio frequencies are cancer-causing-  according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the carcinogenic substances from 2G and 3G radio frequencies are comparable to the consumption of coffee and pickles-  a growing number of communities are asking for more research on health impact from 5G.

Residents of Portland, Oregon, and Whitefish, Montana are also lobbying for restrictions on similar grounds and legislators in four states including New Hampshire have proposed bills that mandate further studies on the health effects of 5G radiation.

New York Democratic Congressman Thomas Suozzi expressed concerns regarding the unknown health impact from 5G cell sites in a letter dated April 16 to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai stating: “Rightly so, my constituents are worried that should this [5G] technology be proven hazardous in the future, the health of their families and value of their properties would be at serious risk,” Suozzi wrote urging the FCC to take on further studies with proper evaluation of health hazards posed by 5G.

More than half a million new cell towers and small cell sites are required to build out a nationwide 5G network fully and while residents may be unhappy and concerned about the appearance of small cell antennas in front of their homes and backyards- there is little they can do to prevent it.

Carriers like Verizon and others are moving fast and forward under the new FCC rules designed to expedite the 5G rollout. Under the FCC’s 5G Fast plan cities and states have to approve new 5G antennas within 60 or 90 days.  The new rules also impose limits on fees municipalities can charge carriers for using space on utility poles, building facades and streetlights.

While for many like the activist group EMF Safety Network which lobbies to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields-  the issue is about the unknown health impact from 5G radio frequencies, the crux of the matter for  municipalities centers around fees, property values and who has the power to zone and regulate infrastructure.

More than 90 municipalities have submitted opening briefs to the Ninth Circuit in a challenge to the FCC order limiting how much they can charge carriers to set up small-cell nodes on existing infrastructure, saying the agency overstepped its bounds.

“The small-cell order deprives local governments of just compensation by restricting compensation for installing facilities on local governments’ right-of-way and infrastructure therein to cost reimbursement. Just compensation within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment generally means fair market value, not cost reimbursement,” the group of localities argued in a brief submitted in June of this year.

Carriers Sprint, Verizon and AT&T argue that the FCC hasn’t done enough to enforce its order, leaving the way open for municipalities to block the telecom companies’ attempts to roll out 5G. Verizon recently filed a lawsuit against the City of Rochester New York claiming that the city’s code violates FCC rules by imposing fees related to renting space in utility poles which are too high. The City of Rochester claims the fees are in line with what other providers pay and calls the suit frivolous.

In the meantime, Verizon is finding new ways to appease residents and municipalities by installing 5G smart poles.  In collaboration with Colorado-based Comptek Technologies Verizon has designed stand-alone poles that house wireless small cell equipment that is completely hidden inside the poles.  The City of Denver has approved the design of the new poles, and Verizon is now deploying them in Denver for 4G and 5G small cell equipment.

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