Telecom strips local control in 5G rollout

The 5G rollout is occurring locally. It’s not safe, and it’s not pretty. Here’s some background: The FCC partnered with telecommunications companies to preempt the ability of state and local governments to oversee the buildout of the 5G infrastructure.  In 2017, the State of Florida passed legislation written by AT&T to facilitate the rollout of 5G. While 5G touts the advantages of speedy download times and the ability to transmit lots of data, 5G frequencies do not travel very far, thus necessitating the deployment of “small cell wireless facilities” in public rights-of-way, approximately every 200 feet. In 2019, the State of Florida amended the 2017 law, further limiting the ability of local municipalities to govern the rollout of 5G. 

What are the issues? 

  1. Health and human safety. As of October 2019, 252 EMF scientists from 42 countries have appealed to the United Nations and to the European Commission asking for a moratorium on the rollout of 5G based on hundreds of independent peer reviewed studies demonstrating hazards associated with exposure to EMF radiation. Despite the known health effects, the 1996 Telecommunications Act prohibits local governments from regulating wireless communications on the basis of health and human safety, yet the industry has allocated zero dollars to safety testing and radio frequency exposure limits have not been updated since 1996. 
  2. Aesthetics. Current legislation allows telecom companies to install equipment wherever they deem appropriate, including in residential neighborhoods. By statute, the equipment may be up to 28 cubic feet, which is larger than a standard refrigerator. The equipment may be mounted onto utility poles, streetlights, bus stops and sides of buildings, and if the Over-the-Air Reception Device Rule (OTARD) passes, on private homes. In many areas of the city, the utilities have been buried.  Unfortunately, the money and effort involved in this ongoing endeavor may prove futile as telecom has the right to install new poles to host their equipment even when utilities are underground.  There is no mandate requiring co-location among carriers, so multiple poles may be installed to host competing equipment. Furthermore, the telecoms do not have to provide advance notice to those impacted, meaning you may wake up to a junkyard on a pole in your front yard. According to numerous appraisal studies from around the country, having wireless poles in front of homes and businesses negatively impacts property values.
  3. Privacy and cyber security. 5G technology is very susceptible to hacking. At an individual level, privacy is severely compromised. Data is collected and available for sale, and one’s every move is tracked. On a national level, cyberterrorism has been identified as the number one threat to national security.

Local Action 

In December 2019, the Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) Committee voted unanimously to approve legislation written by Verizon lobbyists regarding the installation of 5G wireless in seven locations in downtown Jacksonville, despite significant opposition from many local citizens. Ordinance 2019-757 pertains to waivers from local regulations regarding the size and location of “small wireless facilities.” Interestingly, just prior to the LUZ meeting, it was decided that the 5G equipment intended for the sidewalk in front of City Hall would be moved to another location. Does City Council not want it there? Has any consideration been given to other downtown businesses who may not even know of plans for a 5G installation blocking their facades? What about homeowners who will be blindsided when 5G lands in their front yards?

The Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) provided a summary analysis of the proposed ordinance and found that the applicant (Verizon) failed to provide sufficient information for DIA to be able to support approval of the ordinance. The City of Jacksonville (COJ) legal counsel also evaluated 2019-757 to determine what components of the ordinance were necessary to be in compliance with the state law, and what were “beyond compliance.”  However, at the LUZ meeting, it appeared the Verizon lobbyist had more influence than DIA or COJ legal in determining what was “necessary for compliance” with the state law, and he definitely had more influence than the private citizens who loudly voiced their opposition. 

Florida Cities protesting 5G

According to floridatoday.com, Fort Walton Beach, Naples and Port Orange filed a constitutional challenge to the (2019) law. “By requiring municipalities to commit substantial taxpayer and public funds to accommodate wireless providers’ collocation of facilities on municipally owned utility poles, while prohibiting municipalities from charging appropriate fees to wireless providers for that privilege, the small cell statute effectively requires that municipalities use taxpayer and public funds and property to subsidize private companies.”

In Winter Park/Maitland, the City Council passed a contentious ordinance in an effort to retain some local control. Residents expressed concern over the health implications and the lack of studies evaluating safety. “From the local government’s perspective, this isn’t really an ordinance authorizing 5G,” said Legal Counsel Drew Smith. “The state did that for us. This is an ordinance putting on what limitations the state has left to us to try and control it.”

In a September article from the Miami Herald, Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins bemoaned the unsightly, sloppy and hazardous installation of telecommunications equipment on Miami streets. “It’s a 5G fiasco… Downtown is the epicenter of a land grab by the telecommunication companies. We have an absolute mess.”

The Pensacola News Journal asks: “Why should a private entity get carte blanche over taxpayer-owned right of ways without any real concern over aesthetics or public safety? Three of the seven permits currently on file for new small cell nodes in Pensacola are in rights of way directly in the front yard of single-family homes.”

Other cities in Florida protesting aspects of the rollout include Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors, Clearwater, Hillsboro Beach and Hallandale Beach. However, in Palm Beach, where Trump owns a home, the city is exempt from the state law regulating 5G, meaning Palm Beach retains local control. 

National and international  

Despite the egregious overreach of government, many cities around the country are protesting. Multiple cities in California have passed ordinances prohibiting small cell facilities in residential areas.  Internationally, countless cities and countries have enacted restrictive legislation or blocked the rollout entirely including Brussels, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, six counties in Ireland, almost 70 municipalities in Italy, Russia, and Australia. Jacksonville should do the same.

Action Steps & Solutions 

According to rcnwireless.com, 5G requires switching from large “macro” cell towers to much cheaper small cell sites placed close together.  The signal to a user’s device comes from a small cell site, but the wireless network depends on a fiber network carrying data to and from the small cells. Sounds like the 5G buildout is all about maximizing profit for the telecom industry. Is better utilization of the fiber optic network, and fewer (more expensive) macro towers a solution? 

The 2019-770 ordinance proposes to bring Jacksonville into compliance with state law. The residents of Jacksonville should demand this ordinance be amended to prohibit facilities in areas zoned for residential. Contact your City Council representative and all of the At-Large Council members. Join Stop5GJax on Facebook. Educate yourself and get involved!

Everyone benefits from and appreciates the convenience of modern technology, but in this case “progress” is a massive threat to public health, an aesthetic disaster and the framework for surveillance capitalism. 


Sources: takebackyourpower.net, emfsafetynetwork.org, ehtrust.org, YouTube 2/6/19 Senator Blumenthal testimony, US Senate Commerce, Science, And Transportation Committee Hearing on the future of 5G wireless technology. 


Raymur Rachels, Avondale

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