Cell tower

Municipal and county governments, and now Congresswomen Anna Eshoo, are fighting back against the telecom industry’s interest in limiting local government’s permitting authority for additional cell towers and installation of 5G cell equipment.

Last week the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution of support for House Resolution 530, introduced by Eshoo, D-Atherton, aimed at overturning Federal Communications Commission regulations that curtail the local control of permitting new cell towers and wireless transmitters.

The FCC regulation, entitled “Streamlining Deployment of Next Generation Wireless Infrastructure Declaratory Ruling” and approved last September, restricts and puts a time clock on local government’s permitting authority of cell towers and other telecommunications equipment. These regulations accelerate the roll out of so-called fifth generation, or 5G, wireless communication equipment — which will require the installation of a large amount new equipment — without the interference and delays of the local permitting processes.

Los Angeles, Seattle, and 22 other cities and counties have filed lawsuits to overturn the FCC order restricting time for review and how much cities can charge AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and other carriers to process applications for the build-out of next generation wireless infrastructure, according to published reports.

Eshoo, who represents most of Silicon Valley, San Jose and Scotts Valley, introduced HR 530 on January 14 to overturn the FCC order and “restore local control in the deployment of 5G,” according to a news release from the congresswoman’s office.

“Having served in local government for a decade on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, I understand and respect the important role that state and local governments play in protecting the welfare of their residents,” Eshoo wrote. “The FCC let industry write these regulations without sufficient input from local leaders. This has led to regulations that restrict cities from requiring carriers to meet the needs of communities in which they want to operate.”

According to the staff report that accompanied Santa Cruz County’s resolution to support HR 530, the FCC’s new regulations include shortening the “shot-clock” for permit approvals, requiring approvals within 60 days for additional equipment on existing structures and 90 days for erecting new poles, a limit on the “aesthetic concerns” that can be raised about the equipment, as well as limiting fees local governments can charge for cell towers and equipment in the public right-of-way.

Although more than 100 local governments from 22 states filed negative comments prior to the FCC’s ruling, and more than 40 local governments requested a stay on the FCC order, which went into effect on Jan 14, the FCC declined to issue a stay on the order.

Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer for the Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association — a trade group representing more than 100 mobile network operators around the world — spoke about the enormous investment in 5G wireless technology by telecom carriers in an interview Fortune Magazine. Expenses include “small cell” technology and multiple input and output antennas required to facilitate a massive expansion in bandwidth, while increasing the speed of transmission that is promised with the next generation of wireless technology. But that “bigger pipe” for shorter, more intense wavelength transmission requires shorter distances between transmitters and switching gear, requiring a dense net of “small cell” relay transmitters, according to published reports

“When you go to this very high speed (for 5G), you go to shorter range, so you do have to have more antennas and data centers close to where the content is being consumed… You need to have, essentially, an antenna per lamppost,” O’Hara reportedly said.

According to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, released a statement in support of HR 530.

"The FCC forced Congress to act by failing to listen to reasonable input from communities across the country, cowering to industry interests and failing to put the public interests first," he wrote, adding that the legislation is necessary for local jurisdictions to “negotiate fair, market-based broadband deployment agreements and close the digital divide that exists for 34 million low income and rural Americans."

Although neither HR 530 nor the county’s resolution of support specifically mentions alleged health risks of high frequency transmitters, Mill Valley passed an emergency ordinance back in September blocking the installation of 5G transmitters based on public fears of increased cancer risk and other health problems linked to proximity of wireless radiation. San Rafael did the same thing a month earlier and other communities are joining in.

The health impact of electromagnetic fields, or EMF, on humans and the environment has long been a source of contention between the telecom industry and many health officials. The EMF Safety Network emphasizes several peer-reviewed scientific studies linking high levels of radio frequency radiation to increased risk of cancer, the collapse of winged insect populations such as bees and butterflies, as well as several other human maladies including fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, learning and memory disorders.

Long-time local advocate Marilyn Garret has been warning the county board of supervisors for years about the adverse health impacts of increased cell phone radiation. The current fight over local government control of the permitting process for 5G technology is be an opportunity for more community awareness of the health risks linked to wireless radiation, according to Garret.

"The right to health is a basic human right,” she wrote in an email to the Press Banner. “Some of the documented health impacts of exposure to radiofrequency microwave radiation include sleeping disorders, increased cancer incidence, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, etc. We have to stop this 5G cell tower tsunami from inundating us.”

According to the House of Representatives website, HR 530 was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee the same day it was introduced but the legislation has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. A link to the text of the bill is attached to this story at www.pressbanner.com. Contact Eshoo’s district office in Palo Alto at (650)323-2984.

 Contact the Press Banner at pbeditor@pressbanner.com or (831)438-2500.

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