Council suggests limiting 5G

Council suggests limiting 5GBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council spoke at length last week on how the city could take action to limit the installation of towers that would utilize 5G millimeter radio frequency waves. Councilmembers cited health and aesthetics concerns, pointing out that other populations had taken steps to prevent the spread of the new technology. But some questioned the veracity of many of the health claims.

“This isn’t some conspiracy theory,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens, who brought the item to council. “There are studies that have been done … something to take into serious consideration.”

Stephens kicked off the discussion with a slideshow of sources she collected speaking to the dangers of millimeter-wave technology. She cited a video from former Microsoft Canada President Frank Clegg, saying 5G, and 4G technology for that matter, has not been adequately tested and the radio waves are harmful when absorbed into the body.

Clegg served as Microsoft Canada President from 1991-2005 and made waves in 2013 when he began claiming that school Wi-Fi networks were making students ill.

Additionally, she cited a National Toxicology Program study on 2G and 3G cell phone waves which shows “clear evidence” of Radio Frequency Radiation waves causing malignant tumors in the hearts of male rats and “some evidence” of brain and adrenal gland tumors.

The same study notes that 5G implementation will use some of the same lower frequency waves as well as higher-frequency waves, exposing wireless users to a broader spectrum of frequencies. But it also says millimeter waves do not travel as far and are likely to penetrate no deeper than the skin.

Councilmember Scott Hayman pointed out the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies cell phone RFR waves as “possibly carcinogenic.”

But scientific consensus indicates this is not necessarily cause for alarm, as the category covers materials ranging from lead to pickled vegetables and aloe vera gel.

In addition to health concerns, Councilmember Kyle Blades addressed national concerns regarding Chinese company Huawei’s connection with the development of 5G. Western countries have expressed concerns that China could use the vast network of Huawei devices as an espionage tool or to wage cyberwarfare.

“That should say a lot right there – how it affects our national security,” said Blades. “I think it’s important to think about that, aside from the medical and health implications.”

Blades added that while he believes we should try and be on the cutting edge of technology, he hasn’t “heard a large enough pitch about what [5G] has done for industry.”

Hayman shared some of Stephens’ sentiments, citing a Scientific American article that spoke to the dangers of 5G.

“I think it’s important we stay on top of the negative effects that it may or may not have,” he said. But he also recognized that cell phone technology has been around for more than 20 years now and “we haven’t seen the dramatic effects” that some of these studies warn against.

Mayor Peggy Breeden cautioned against being too hasty in attributing negative phenomena to 5G technology.

“I’m not saying it’s a scare tactic,” said Breeden, “but lets get more information before we start making rules that may inhibit our ability to grow and the Navy’s ability to continue to do what they have to do.”

City Manager Ron Strand added that keeping up with technology is an important part of attracting new residents and businesses to Ridgecrest.

“Almost every place I go throughout the state, 5G pops up on my phone,” said Strand. “We sometimes have a hard time recruiting people – they’re coming here from somewhere with 5G and we have 4G … it’s kind of backwards.”

During public comment, resident Gavin Swanson called in and challenged the anti-5G stance taken by Stephens and others.

Stephens cited an article claiming that Switzerland had issued a nation-wide halt to the 5G roll out. But the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment denied any such blanket ban and said the news reports were misleading.

“They were doing a couple of pauses in the roll out for aesthetic reasons and it was widely spread through the news system as a complete halt – it was not,” said Swanson.

“Some of you mentioned ‘this isn’t conspiracy’ … this is conspiracy theory stuff,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of that running around with the whole COVID thing, we don’t need our council pushing conspiracy theories on the city. I really urge you not to waste any more city dollars investigating this or trying to ban it or anything like that. It’s ridiculous.”

He added that the Navy was equipped to address it’s own security concerns and would step up if there were any issues. When it comes to the city – its concern needs to be attracting people to Ridgecrest.

“We have to keep up on technology concerns for [the Navy’s] recruiting and retention,” said Swanson. “Getting new businesses in town and more economic development – that’s going to be huge.

“Keeping and retaining people here when we can’t give them the bandwidth that they need for all the new tech that’s coming out – that’s not going to fly.”

Councilmembers also expressed concern with the number of towers that would be necessary for 5G. Because of the short range of millimeter waves, transmitters would need to be installed at least every 500 feet. Because of this, many cities have pushed back against 5G roll out on aesthetic grounds.

“I urge you to look around town now and look at the towers we have out here,” said Swanson.

“Every third or fourth one has a little box on it already because they’re already transmitting information that utilities are monitoring around town. You haven’t noticed these boxes now, you’re not going to notice another box hanging out there. It’s slightly larger than the wireless router in your house.”

Councilmembers discussed what it’s options would be to further explore the topic. Stephens asked City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen to look into joining other cities throughout the state who are opposing 5G on health or aesthetic grounds. Blades also suggested the city could create an ordinance with more stringent requirements regarding wireless communication installation.

Council directed staff to evaluate the city’s options and to determine an appropriate committee for future discussion.

“We were the last to get 3G and the last to get LTE,” said Strand. “We’re probably going to be the last to get 5G, so I think we have some time.”

Story First Published: 2020-05-15