Anna Eshoo with Congressional Members of House Committee on Energy and Commerce Ask FCC to Delay New 5G Declaratory Ruling

In another effort to “cut the red tape” and fast track deployment of 5G throughout cities in America, the Federal communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 on a new Declaratory Ruling  June 9, 2020, which will further limit local government control in the permitting and placement of 5G cell towers. Representative Anna Eshoo, along with 23 of 29 Democratic members of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to ask for a delay in voting on this measure this during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter states, “We are especially troubled by the burden responding to this Declaratory Ruling will place on local governments that are justifiably focused right now on combatting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Likewise, we worry that if this Declaratory Ruling does not benefit from meaningful input from local governments, the result could undermine municipalities’ ability to balance their responsibilities to public safety and community design with their desire to ensure access to affordable wireless networks and the next generation services.”

5G FCC Fast Track Plan

The original FCC Declaratory Ruling to streamline deployment of 5G has been opposed by local and state governments as well as congressional representatives in both the House and Senate. A lawsuit was filed by dozens of cities in 2018, arguing this is an overreach of authority and a give away of the public’s right of way to industry. The lawsuit has still not been decided.  The 2018  5G Fast Track Plan removes local authority in the placement of 5G towers, limits revenue local governments can ask for rent on public utility poles, allows batching of dozens of permits in a city and prevents cities from placing a 5G moratorium. This new Ruling As in the original Telecommunications Act of 1996, health or environmental issues cannot be brought up as a reason to deny cell tower placement, despite growing scientific evidence of both harm to human health and the environment from this non-ionizing microwave radiation.

Profits over Permits: Unchecked Industry Influence

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated in an article earlier in the year, that cost cutting relief is needed for telecom companies who are anxious to deploy 5G. “This is one of the roadblocks…It’s not just the national government that regulates in this area, it’s many other layers of government, and that’s not something that’s conducive to infrastructure investment”.   Roadblocks to the telecommunications expansion are primarily a threat to profits, as Harvard ethics fellow Norm Alster clearly points out in FCC Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industry It Presumably Regulates,

The FCC sits at the core of a network that has allowed powerful moneyed interests with limitless access a variety of ways to shape its policies, often at the expense of fundamental public interests. As a result, consumer safety, health, and privacy, along with consumer wallets, have all been overlooked, sacrificed, or raided due to unchecked industry influence.”

Are 5G Concerns Over Health and Safety… a Conspiracy Theory?

This is not just an issue of local government control of telecommunications.  The general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas M Johnson Jr., wrote a conspiracy theory hit pice on those who oppose 5G. Called  5G conspiracy theories threaten the U.S. recovery, this was published in the Washington Post June 4, 2020. The Post article artfully shifts the  discussion away from the critical issue of unstudied public health and safety risks of widespread 5G deployment, to blame a future stale economy on 5G opponents. The real threat of loss of future profits from telecommunications is hidden.

We need telecommunications but Big Telecom is too powerful, just like Big Ag and Big Pharma. Light regulation suits them but it is not to the benefit of the public. How should we grow our economy?  With safe, sustainable and appropriately regulated industries, or indulge in whatever we can sell to make a profit for the short term, dealing with the consequences of poor judgement and industry influence decades later? We have abundant experience with the later strategy and already know it is more costly to our health and that of the environment on which our human future depends.

This conspiracy response is an expected and well established persuasive method of attack by industry, especially considering that a thoughtful and convincing article was published in Scientific American in October 2019 by Dr. Joel Moskowitz, We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe.  Industry is very concerned that they will be exposed. They are now blanketing the airwaves with slick ads about how 5G will give us faster, better service, in an effort to manufacture public demand for 5G.  But, has the curtain already been drawn?

The Fake Race to 5G?

A European Commission industry analysis of 5G Deployment for Europe, the U.S. and Asia, states that 5G will cost much more to deploy than prior wireless technology infrastructure. Their business model admits that 5G is not driven by consumer or government demand. The report clearly states,  “5G is driven by the telecoms supply industry, and its long tail of component manufacturers, a major campaign is under way to convince governments that the economy and jobs will be strongly stimulated by 5G deployment. However, we are yet to see significant “demand-pull” that could assure sales. These campaign efforts are also aimed at the MNOs [multiple Network operators] but they have limited capacity to invest in the new technology and infrastructure as their returns from investment in 3G and 4G are still being recouped.”  

The 5G industry campaign has cleverly made this into a race. The report highlights that “The notion of a “race” is part of the campaign but it is becoming clear that the technology will take much longer than earlier generations to perfect.”  Success for 5G, they note, depends on  “developing a lightweight regulatory framework for deployment of small area wireless access points” for easy rollout. In addition, because of the cost of 5G to industrial users, “new models may emerge for alternative forms of network ownership and operations. In the vertical industrial sectors (e.g. aerospace and car manufacture, construction, health services, utilities, etc.) the sector players may become the prevalent 5G network builders, owners and operators.” This  will be promoted as profitable for many manufacturing businesses.

Economic, Human Health and Environmental Consequences

Will there be any consideration for adverse effects of 5G to workers or consumers or the planet?  What about effects on children?  Privacy and security are increasing concerns, along with the easy mining of data from children in public schools.  The huge energy use of 5G will flush carbon reductions already achieved and require more power plants to be built.  The military will also use 5G wavelengths, however national security is a significant risk under discussion.  5G will use the cloud to download large amounts of data to operate uninhabited autonomous military vehicles, enabling new military concepts of operations, such as swarming (i.e., cooperative behavior in which vehicles autonomously coordinate to achieve a task).”  Who decides how much we should militarize telecommunications?

What about safer alternatives? There has not been adequate regulation, monitoring or scientific studies of 5G safety, nor any serious discussion of alternatives to date, thus it seems highly unlikely that will change any time soon.  The momentum is gaining to use this technology to connect everything from your toaster to your car  to the newsroom, and to military operations, building a primarily telecommunications economy.  As observational and scientific evidence mounts that wireless technology is just another biologic toxin added to the emerging concern list, the direct and indirect costs of human health and environmental harms will be paid for by the taxpayers, as is now “traditionally” done for other industrial pollutantsThe balance sheet for this economy continues to shift to industry, crushing human rights, human health and planetary health. A large GDP does not equal a sustainable or just economy and only hides the decline in habitat and social  well being.

Representative Eshoo has shown she will stand up for the rights of cities and for fairness. What will Big Tech do?

Afterward: On June 9th, 2020 the FCC voted 3 to 2  to pass the Declaratory Ruling. The 2 dissenting votes were Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks.  Michael Johnson, a representative for Western Communities Coalition stated that litigation may follow, as this was a clear violation of the law.  He noted, “The FCC didn’t seek public comment and didn’t sufficiently analyze how the ruling affects communities as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.”

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