It’s important to consider the risks of 5G technology

You’ve seen the commercials: Telecom giants are rolling out fifth generation (5G) wireless technology for digital cellular networks. They promise blanket connectivity, faster streaming, opportunities in telemedicine and capacity to convey large amounts of information quickly. Credible research reveals risks too, but the Federal Communications Commission has preempted local authority, threatening to penalize cities that impede 5G’s rollout.

Officials here are trying to figure out how to comply, while protecting communities they serve. Urge them to find allies, question experts, advocate for constituents, and entreat federal policymakers and agencies to help. Remember, “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.”

Preparations are underway to install closely-spaced small-cell antennas on poles, towers, and buildings, based on safety standards from 1996. It’s prudent to ask about health risks associated with aggregate effects of variable and phased-array electromagnetic radiation. Is it safe to bring children to daycares or playgrounds where antennas are mounted? What about cyber-security and privacy? Are reports of interference with commercial aviation, weather satellites and other remote sensing warranted? Will ratepayers bear the huge expense for installation and maintenance? Will we need to buy new devices to participate? Could private property owners be forced to dedicate space for transceivers? Is it true that residential values drop when antennas are installed nearby?

The rush to embrace 5G is a race to beat the competition and satisfy seemingly insatiable consumer demand, but at what cost? Let’s choose an incremental course with objective evaluation of safety over time. Essayist Wendell Berry described “arrogant ignorance” as “willingness to work on too big a scale, and thus to put too much at risk.”

The pace and expansiveness of this “rollout” feels more like steamrolling by the FCC and telecoms. Ask local government to take the time to get answers and minimize risks for everyone.

Nancy Chaney

Moscow

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