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There could soon be ugly and 'dangerous' cell towers everywhere

If the telecommunications industry gets its way, you may wake up one morning to find that a cell tower has been built just outside your bedroom window without notice to you and that there is nothing you can do about it.

On Oct. 15, 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have deprived California cities of control over their streets and sidewalks. Similar bills have already become law in 12 states, and a bill is pending before Congress in Washington — Senate Bill 1988, the SPEED Act of 2017 — that would do the same thing nationwide. The purpose of these bills is to facilitate something that we are all told we need. It is called 5G.

5G, for those who don't yet know, is the two-letter word for an audacious plan to "educate" everything you own and buy: expect "smart" cities, "smart" cars, "smart" businesses, "smart" homes, "smart" clothing, "smart" hairbrushes, "smart" milk cartons, and "smart" diapers.

To make this possible, industry organizations like the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association are intensely lobbying Congress and state and local governments to abolish all zoning laws that regulate antennas and towers in the public rights-of-way.

The number of wireless sites needed for 5G is mind-boggling, with experts predicting a small cell tower on every block in every city, others predicting antennas in most buildings, and some predicting ten billion cell sites in the world in just a few years.

Citizens are starting to fight back. In New York, Senate Bill 6687, introduced by state Sen. Kemp Hannon in June, would prohibit the attachment of antennas to existing utility poles except in certain circumstances.

In California, 300 cities, 47 counties and over 100 community, planning, health, environment and social justice organizations mounted a coordinated campaign that convinced Governor Brown to veto 5G lesislation. In Ohio, 70 cities went to court, where a judge overturned that state's 5G law.

If the SPEED Act passes, all cell towers under 50 feet tall in the public rights-of-way will be exempt from environmental and historic preservation laws, nationwide.

Few people know that the Environmental Protection Agency drafted regulations back in 1995 that would have put strict, enforceable limits on the amount of radiation cell towers can emit. As a result of lobbying by the telecommunications industry, Congress prohibited the EPA from regulating cell towers and instead ordered the Federal Communications Commission to set limits on cell tower radiation.

Unfortunately, the FCC has no authority over health and safety and its radiation exposure limits are non-binding. But they have served as guidelines to cities for over 20 years. Under the SPEED Act of 2017, cities could no longer enforce even those very high radiation limits.

There is evidence from around the world that radio frequency radiation from cell towers and other sources is implicated not only in human illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, but in colony collapse disorder in honey bees, reproductive failure in birds, and the general decline of the natural world. It is time to take our heads out of the collective sand and stop this environmental assault.

The SPEED Act should be defeated. New Yorkers should urge their state representatives to pass Sen. Hannon's bill in the 2018 legislative session.

This article originally ran on

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