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Marin Lipowitz

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Marin Lipowitz: Right-of-way bill a Telecom giveaway

Thank you, Nevada County Board of Supervisors, for joining the League of California Cities in opposing SB649 (California), the Telecom right-of-way bill. It passed the California Senate and is now in the Assembly.

SB 649 is promoted by the Telecom companies. Capitol Weekly named AT&T lobbyist Bill Devine the 16th most powerful person in Sacramento last year. CTIA — the wireless industry — is the listed source for SB649.

This bill would allow powerful two-way microwave transmitters in the public right of way. The League of California Cities states the cell antennas and related equipment include "microwireless" to "small cells" to "macro-towers" as large as six cubic feet. They can be hung in clusters on utility or light poles by multiple telecom businesses. Equipment cabinets the size of refrigerators with could sit on walkways. There would be no size or quantity limitations for such accessories as electric meters, pedestals, cabinets or grounding equipment. The loading of utility poles could be as closely placed as the distance between poles at the discretion of the wireless companies.

Would you like to live in a neighborhood or go to a business district with such equipment hanging about and emitting 24/7?

This give-away also severely limits the fees cities could collect to $250 per year for use and maintenance of public right of way facilities. What a deal.

The League of California Cities further notes that SB 649 prohibits local government discretionary review of location on poles, or non-pole structures. It would preclude public input regarding aesthetic, nuisance and other environmental impacts. Governments would not have priority to reserve space for public safety or efficiency technology such as police cameras or solar panels.

It is small consolation that fires from increasing loaded power polls might be reimbursed by telecom companies, after months or years of legal proceedings. The Malibu fire of 2007, caused by utility poles overloaded with telecom equipment, was settled in 2013. Malibu Mayor Andy Stern called these loaded poles time bombs.

This giveaway also severely limits the fees cities could collect to $250 per year for use and maintenance of public right of way facilities. What a deal. The fees are a pittance compared to the profits these companies would rake in using public facilities. The fees would do little to contribute to the cost of maintaining utility poles likely to lean and deteriorate with increased equipment. Nor would the minimal fees be sufficient to maintain or reconfigure walkways to accommodate the refrigerator-sized equipment.

The FCC prohibits health considerations in siting microwave antennas in spite of the growing body of research showing deterioration of health and cancers from various exposures. Since SB 649 allows the placement of 5G, and 4G wireless equipment in much denser and closer proximity, there is increased intensity and frequency of emissions. FCC exposure guidelines are only for short-term thermal effects to a large man.

In 2012 the Santa Cruz County Health Officer stated: "There are no current, relevant public safety standards for pulsed RF (radio frequency) involving chronic exposure of the public, nor of sensitive populations …" Other countries have limits 10 times or 100 times stricter than the U.S.

There are now thousands of reports by scientific, academic and governing bodies world-wide showing damaged health from wireless emissions. Scientists for Wired Technology observe that "Bio-effects of pulsed, modulated RF/MW (microwave) radiation from its many sources are cumulative." However, they observe there may also be immediate effects such as interference with neurological functions of sleep, memory and cognition as shown in many studies. Over 200 EMF experts from 41 nations expressed concerns about the impact of EMF exposure on public health. The Environmental Health Trust advised the legislature of serious scientific grounds to reject SB 649 due to health hazards citing numerous studies.

Local governments are likely to face legal challenges related to compliance with federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as well as class actions by neighborhoods. Telecom companies may also face litigation. At least a dozen telecom companies have reported to their stockholders they may incur significant claims related to potential negative health effects from wireless technology. They stated this could affect their revenues.

The telecom companies paint a scary picture of poor internet and cell phone functioning unless they can install more extensive wireless communication, but that evidence is highly speculative. In addition, Scientists for Wired Technology observed that fiber optics is much more energy efficient and is fast and reliable in communities and countries where it has been installed.

Please contact your Assembly member to express opposition to SB649. Find your legislator at findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov. Also tell Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon you oppose it at 916-319-2063 or assemblymember.rendon@assemly.ca.gov.

Marin Lipowitz lives on Cedar Ridge.