Modern legislation on non-ionizing radiation for telecommunications was jumpstarted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Many concerning issues were ignored however in the Act. Here is information and links to U.S. Legislative Acts and also other historical information.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996  Telecommunications Act of 1996

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major revision of the 62 year old Communications Act of 1934. The stated  FCC goal of this restructuring of US Markets was to reduce the Monopoly AT&T had on the long distance market. The passage of the Telecom Act has however led to such significant deregulation that there is much more consolidation of radio and phone service with only a few carriers who essentially monopolize and control the industry with the help of a powerful industry association, CITA. The effort to pass the Telecom Act was led by the telecommunications industry and has incorporated protections for business, however, not for public or environmental health (nor for privacy or security). Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act dismissed the environment. The language was codified in Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act, prohibits discussion of environmental concerns or health concerns (by lack of substantial evidence) in the placement of cell towers. This is despite growing awareness and scientific confirmation of both environmental and health effects from exposure to cell tower radiation and all radiofrequency wireless devices.

The Spectrum Act of 2012   The Spectrum Act of 2012

The Spectrum Act, is an added section of the Payroll Deduction Act called the  Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012,  This Act facilitates the telecommunications industry’s rapid deployment of wireless infrastructure by requiring local governments to approve any application by a carrier that asks to modify and existing cellular communication structure that does not “substantially change” the existing facility.   Section 6409 states cities ““may not deny, and shall approve any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.” (47 U.S.C. § 1455(a)(1).) Section 6409 defines “eligible facilities request” as “any request for modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that involves – (a) collocation of new transmission equipment; (b) removal of transmission equipment; or (c) replacement of transmission equipment.”

The 5G Fast Plan

Although not Federal legislation the FCC 5G Fast Plan5G Fast Plan removes much of the remaining control over cell tower placement and fast tracks large numbers of cell towers that can be used for 5G but also will be extensively used for 3G and 4G applications as “backhaul”. In a addition the 5G system will use a range of frequencies from 600MHz to 300 GHz.  California Representative Anna Eshoo introduced the 2019 bill HR 530 in an effort to overturn the FCC Fast Plan ruing. The bill now has 48 co sponsors.

NRDC Attorney Writes Proposal for Non-ionizing Radiation Legislation in 1979

In 1979 Karen A. Massey, an attorney for the NRDC, wrote a comprehensive paper, The Challenge of Nonionizing Radiation: A Proposal for Legislation, in the Duke Law Journal. She highlights that the thermal effects were well known but observations of non-thermal effects were not studies in the U.S. but other countries such as the Soviet Union developed much lower standards due to their research on microwave radiation. She has written quite well on the legal and policy history of non-ionizing microwave radiation.

Karen A. Massey, The Challenge of Nonionizing Radiation: A Proposal for Legislation, 1979 Duke Law Journal 105-189 (1979). Available at: