Easton extends ban on 5G infrastructure


EASTON — City officials recently extended a ban on 5G infrastructure, which some residents say can have adverse health effects.

5G stands for fifth-generation cellular broadband networks, and although officials said at the meeting where the ban was extended that they were not convinced of the technology’s negative health effects, they did not weren’t entirely convinced that she was safe either.

“In my doctor’s hat, I’ve said every time we’ve done this, I’m not convinced by the science that it’s bad,” David Bindelglass said. “But I think there is room for question.”

Bindelglass, Easton’s first manager, said City were approached around the time he first took charge in 2019.

“There was a group in town that was convinced that the data on 5G was unclear to say the least, and they suggested that we ban the installation of 5G,” he said. “We did it in smaller chunks because we expect more data to come out.”

On May 5, the Board of Selectmen again heard from residents before voting to extend the moratorium until December 31, 2023. Bindelglass said a key reason the board felt comfortable with the The ban was a federal court decision that ordered the Federal Communications Commission to review its health and safety guidelines for 5G and other wireless technologies.

“What is fortunate for us is that we have improved our collaboration a lot with Frontier and to some extent with Optimum on fiber accessibility,” he said. “So people are experiencing improved internet service, which was a real problem for much of the city.”

While not everyone has seen better connections, Bindelglass said, it’s getting better. This allows people to consider the health effects of 5G more without worrying about their connectivity.

5G proponents also claim that there is no clear peer-reviewed scientific evidence that 5G is harmful to human health.

The CTIA, a trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the United States, originally wrote a letter urging Bindelglass not to implement the 5G infrastructure ban. In it, he said the ban would “hinder the industry’s ability to meet our customers’ expectations for superior wireless service.”

The CTIA said the FCC has declared state or local moratoriums on the deployment of facilities that would provide wireless service to be illegal because they harm service and competition. He also claimed that the justifications for the resolution were based on inaccurate scientific claims.

“The consensus among health experts, including the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration, is that the weight of scientific evidence shows no known adverse effects on human health resulting from exposure to antennas or wireless devices,” it said.

Bindelglass noted that U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has expressed concern about the lack of scientific research and data on the technology’s potential health risks.

“It’s not just a conspiracy theory by a small group,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are worried about this.”

What is 5G?

According to Houston Chronicle technology columnist Dwight Silverman, 5G, or fifth generation, isn’t just a technology.

“Rather, it’s an amalgamation of many different ones. It’s how they are put together and interact that gives 5G its promise,” he wrote in 2021. “Wireless networks use radio waves, collectively known as the radio spectrum, to transmission and reception. Radio waves operate at different frequencies. Higher frequencies can carry more data faster but don’t travel as far. Lower frequencies have greater range but cannot transmit as much information as quickly.

As wireless companies build 5G networks, Silverman said, they use low, mid and high frequencies to optimize speed and range. The process of rolling out 5G in the United States involves changes to cell towers, ground equipment that provides power and internet connectivity, and the data and network centers used to handle wireless communications.

While low- and mid-band 5G transmitters are often installed on the same type of towers as previous technology — 4G LTE — high-frequency transmitters need to be lower to the ground and close together, Silverman said.

As CNN economics editor David Goldman notes, the promise of 5G is faster speed and connection and better stability on people’s phones, but it will also be used for other technologies that require an internet connection.

Experts say the technology will also reduce latency or lag between devices and the servers they connect to.

“That means wireless companies will have to install thousands — maybe millions — of miniature cell towers on top of streetlights, on the side of buildings and inside homes,” he said.

5G concerns

State Rep. David Michel of Stamford (D-146), an opponent of 5G, said the problem of cell towers in cities dates back about 30 years, when many people concerned about the environment objected to their placement in residential areas.

Michel believes radio frequency radiation from cell phone towers is harmful and also noted the US Court of Appeals decision. Groups opposed to 5G have pushed back against the FCC’s attempt to exempt 5G cell sites from environmental impact and historic preservation reviews.

The ruling requires the FCC to “provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to retain its testing procedures for determining whether cell phones and other portable electronic devices comply with its guidelines” as well as address the impact of RF radiation on the health and the environment.

“To be clear, we take no position in the scientific debate regarding the health and environmental effects of RF radiation – we simply conclude that the Commission’s cursory analysis of the material evidence was insufficient in law,” wrote the tribunal.

Michel said the federal agency’s regulations on this technology are outdated, dating back to 1996. He said 5G infrastructure exists in the South End of Stamford where he lives, although it has not been activated at the planned frequency that would constitute 5G.

Since antennas for 5G need to be closer together, Michel said, that means people, wildlife and the environment are constantly exposed to RF waves. He said studies, such as the one published by the European Parliamentary Research Service, found that the frequency at which 5G operates was harmful to human and animal health.

“There is peer-reviewed science out there,” he said. “A lot.”

In its letter, the CTIA linked studies from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the National Cancer Institute, each of which said there was no evidence. conclusive that 5G technology has adverse health effects.

“To date, and after extensive research, no adverse health effects have been causally linked to exposure to wireless technologies,” reports the WHO. “The health-related conclusions are drawn from studies done across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been done on which frequencies should be used by 5G.”

Looking forward

Bindeglass said 5G infrastructure is being built in towns around Easton, including Fairfield and Westport. He noted that the Connecticut Settlement Board has jurisdiction over utility infrastructure and does not have to listen to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

“But nobody confronted us and said, ‘You can’t do this and we’re setting this thing up anyway,'” he said. “(The moratorium) has been effective in that regard.”

Jim Wendt, Fairfield’s planning director, said his city doesn’t have separate regulations for 5G technology — it falls under the same rules as any other utility. The city may be able to regulate the height of an antenna, but this type of infrastructure is regulated by the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

“The city has no local jurisdiction over these,” he said. “It’s similar to a cell tower – those go to the Connecticut Siting Council.”

While he can’t speak for the entire city, Wendt said, there have never been concerns about 5G in his office.

Taren O’Connor, director of legislation, regulation and communications at the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, said objections to 4G or 5G small cell installations the agency sees seem to come and go.

“Generally, PURA’s jurisdiction over small cells is limited to approving the placement of facilities on utility poles within the public right-of-way,” she said. “If an adjoining owner expresses an objection to the placement of the small cell, and if the provider does not choose to withdraw the application and pursue an alternative placement, then PURA has jurisdiction to resolve the issue if the requested placement is on the service pole in a public right-of-way, however, PURA is expressly prohibited by federal law from regulating emissions from wireless installations.

In other words, O’Connor said, while PURA requires an applicant to demonstrate that their proposed small cell installation complies with FCC regulations, usually in the form of a an RF engineer, PURA is otherwise precluded from commenting on the appropriateness of the RF emissions or otherwise considering the RF emissions in its review of the application.

Bindelglass said the town of Easton will continue to take a wait-and-see approach to the issues. He said it aligned with the city’s sense of being a healthy and environmentally friendly place.

“It’s not in our character to be maybe a little more cautious than most,” he said. “I think it fits who we are as a city.”

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