Easton, CT Extends Ban on Dense 4G/5G Infrastructure

Adapted from an article by Josh LaBella, May 21, 2022 | Original CT Insider article here.

EASTON, CT — Town officials recently extended a ban on 4G/5G infrastructure in the public rights of way, which some residents say can cause negative health consequences.

5G stands for fifth-generation broadband cellular networks, and while officials said in the meeting that the ban was extended, they were not convinced of the negative health consequences of 4G/5G wireless technology, they also were not entirely convinced it is safe.

“In my physician hat, I’ve said this every time we’ve done this, I am not convinced of the science that this is bad,” David Bindelglass said. “But, I do think that there is some room for question.”

Bindelglass, Easton’s first selectman, said the town was approached around the time he first took office in 2019.

“There was a group in town that felt strongly that the data [on dense 4G/5G infrastructure] was at the very least unclear, and they came to us with a proposal that we ban the installation of [dense 4G/5G infrastructure],” he said. “We’ve done it in smaller chunks because we’re expecting more data to come out.”

Note: The data is out and has been out for a long time. Wireless radio frequency microwave radiation is bioactive and is currently being insufficiently regulated. Therefore, each state or locality can regulate the maximum power output of microwave radiation from wireless infrastructure antennas that reaches any areas that are accessible to human beings and other living organisms, consistent with the 11,000+ pages of peer-reviewed, scientific evidence that Environmental Health Trust, Children’s Health Defense and others plaintiffs placed in the FCC’s public record in 2019: Vol-1, Vol-2, Vol-3, Vol-4, Vol-5, Vol-6, Vol-7 Vol-8, Vol-9, Vol-10, Vol-11, Vol-12, Vol-13, Vol-14, Vol-15, Vol-16, Vol-17, Vol-18, Vol-19, Vol-20, Vol-21, Vol-22, Vol-23, Vol-24, Vol-25, Vol-26 and Vol-27.

On Aug 13, 2021, the US Courts of Appeals, DC Circuit ruled in Case 20-1025, Environmental Health Trust, et al. v FCC — a lawsuit that challenged the legality of the FCC’s attempted de facto rule-making, a sneaky maneuver that tried to extend its current RF microwave radiation exposure guidelines to frequencies above 6,000 MHz, without any reasoned decision-making. The judges caught the FCC and remanded FCC Order 19-126 back to the FCC, invalidating the Order.

The DC Circuit judges ruled the following in Case 20-1025:

“. . . we grant the petitions in part and remand to the Commission to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its guidelines adequately protect against harmful effects of exposure to radio-frequency [microwave] radiation. It must, in particular,

  • (i) 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,
  • (ii) address the impacts of RF radiation on children, the health implications of long-term exposure to RF radiation, the ubiquity of wireless devices, and other technological developments that have occurred since the Commission last updated its guidelines, and
  • (iii) address the impacts of RF radiation on the environment.”

On May 5, 2022, the Board of Selectmen heard from residents again before it voted to extend the moratorium until Dec 31, 2023. Bindelglass said one major reason the board felt comfortable with the ban was a federal court decision which ordered the Federal Communications Commission to reexamine its health and safety guidelines for 3G/4G/5G and other wireless based technologies.

“What’s fortunate for us is that we’ve greatly improved working with Frontier and, to some extent, with Optimum, on fiber broadband,” he said. “So, people are experiencing faster internet service by wire, which was something that had been a real issue for a lot of the town.”

While not everyone has seen improved connections, Bindelglass said, it is getting better. That allows people to give more time to evaluate to the negative health consequences of RF microwave radiation from dense 4G/5G infrastructure without having to worry about their connectivity.

The CTIA, a trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the United States, originally wrote a letter urging Bindelglass not to implement the ban on dense 4G/5G infrastructure. In it, it said the ban would “hamper the industry’s ability to meet our customer’s expectations for superior wireless service.”

The CTIA said the FCC had declared that state or local moratoria on deployment of facilities that would provide wireless services are unlawful, as it harms service and competition. It also claimed that the justifications for the resolution were based on inaccurate scientific claims.

The CTIA letter said:

“The consensus among health experts, including the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is that the weight of scientific evidence shows no known adverse health effects to humans from exposure to wireless antennas or devices,”

Bindelglass, however, noted U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has raised concerns 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’s a lot of people who have cited substantial written evidence of harm from RF microwave radiation from wireless infrastructure antennas.”

What is 5G?

According to Houston Chronicle tech columnist Dwight Silverman, 5G, or fifth generation, is not just one technology. Silverman wrote in 2021:

“Rather, [5G is] an amalgam of many different ones. It’s how they are assembled and interact that give 5G its promise. Wireless networks use radio waves, collectively known as the radio spectrum, for transmission and reception. The 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 can’t transmit as much information as fast.”

As wireless companies build dense 4G/5G infrastructure, Silverman said, they are using low-band (600-1000 MHz), mid-band (1000-6000 MHz) and high-band (60,000 to 90,000 MHz) frequencies to optimize speed and range. The process of rolling out dense 4G/5G in the United States involves changes to Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) adding new antennas, new radios and new power generating equipment.

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

Some wireless experts say the tech will also allow for less latency, or lag time, between devices and the servers they connect to, but the data has not yet shown this at scale, because the speed and latency of 5G is very similar and often worse than 4G LTE.

Wireless companies aim to install thousands — perhaps millions — of smaller but still full-power Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) on top of lamp posts, on the side of buildings and inside homes. Is this necessary for wireless telecommunucations service? No.,

Whether such antennas are needed or not, the wireless companies are waging a market share battle with wired internet service providers at the expense of local residents who faces losses in public safety, privacy and property values, due to the placement and construction of dense 4G/5G infrastructure antennas near their homes.

The Problems with Dense 4G/5G Infrastructure

State Rep. David Michel of Stamford (D-146), an opponent of dense 4G/5G infrastructure, said the issue with cell towers being placed in towns goes back approximately 30 years, when a lot of environmentally minded people pushed against their placement in residential areas.

Michel believes the radio frequency radiation from cell towers is harmful, and also noted the U.S. Courts of Appeals, DC Cir. ruling in Case 20-1025, Environmental Health Trust et al v FCC. Two years earlier, consumer and environmental protection groups opposed to dense 4G/5G infrastructure pushed back against the FCC’s attempt to try to exempt 4G/5G WTFs sites from environmental impact and historic preservation reviews. The FCC lost that case, as well: Case 18-1129: Keetoowah et al. v FCC in Aug, 2019

The 2021 ruling forces 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 health and the environment.

The court wrote:

“To be clear, we take no position in the scientific debate regarding the health and environmental effects of RF microwave radiation—we merely conclude that the Commission’s cursory analysis of material record evidence was insufficient as a matter of law,” .

Michel said the federal agency’s regulations on such technology is out of date, being from 1996. He said dense 4G/5G infrastructure exists in the South End of Stamford where he lives.

Since the industry purports that antennas for 5G have to be closer to each other, Michel said, that means that people, wildlife and the environment are under constant exposure to high power, pulsed, modulated RF microwave radiation — power levels that are 100,000,000 times higher than needed for “5 bars” wireless telecommuncations service (the ability to make outdoor wireless phone calls). He said studies, such as one published by the European Parliamentary Research Service, have found the frequencies at which 4G and 5G operate to be harmful to the health of humans and animals.

“There is peer-reviewed science,” he said. “Plenty of it.”

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 has been no conclusive evidence that 5G technology causes adverse health effects.

“To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies,” the WHO reports. “Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.”

Do you see the disconnect? This sounds a lot like Tobacco industry insisting that cigarrettes were safe, which the industry did for 30 years after the science had shown otherwise. We are near the 30-year mark for the Wireless industry right now. It is essentially the same story.

Expressing Local Values

Bindeglass said dense 4G/5G infrastructure is built in towns around Easton, including in Fairfield and Westport. He noted that the Connecticut Siting Council has jurisdiction over public utilities infrastructure, and does not have to listen to the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

“But no one has confronted us and said, ‘You can’t do this and we’re putting this stuff up anyway,’” he said. “(The moratorium) has been effective in that regard.”

Jim Wendt, Fairfield’s planning director, said his town does not have any separate regulations for dense 4G/5G infrastructure — it falls under the same rules as any other public utility. The town may be able to regulate the height of an antenna, but that type of infrastructure is regulated by Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

While he can not speak for the entire town, Wendt said, there have never been any problems raised about dense 4G/5G infrastructure at his office.

Taren O’Connor, the director of legislation, regulations and communications for the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, said objections to dense 4G/5G infrastructure sees seems to ebb and flow.

“In general, PURA’s jurisdiction with respect to [4G/5G so-called] small cells is limited to approving the placement of facilities on utility poles in the public right of way,” she said. “If an abutting property owner expresses an objection to the placement of the small cell, and if the provider does not elect to withdraw the application and pursue an alternative placement, then PURA has jurisdiction to resolve the matter if the requested placement is on the utility pole in a public right-of-way; however, PURA is expressly preempted by federal law from regulating emissions from wireless facilities [for decisions regarding placement, construction and modification of personal wireless facilities, which means that PURA could still regulate the operations of personal wireless facilities towers in order to mitigate the nuisances of personal wireless facilities, which include harms to public safety, privacy and property values].”

Bindelglass said the town of Easton will continue to take a wait-and-see approach to the issues. He said it is consistent with the town’s sentiment of being a healthy, environmentally-conscious place.

“It’s not out of our character to be maybe a little more cautious than most,” he said. “I think that kind of fits with who we are as a town.”