We have to do 5G, the White House and FCC scream. We have to keep up with China! It will solve the problems with broadband in rural areas! It will outpace any other network technology! The radiation levels coming out of the hideous small cells are there, but too low to worry about! Don’t worry, the small cells will look good, (except that in many cases we’ve been showing you distributed antenna system photos and not small cell photos). Shhh!
This is but a small dose of the rhetoric coming out of the most corrupt FCC in American history, the anti-net neutral, anti-first amendment, un-trustworthy big telecoms, the White House, and high-level members of your own corrupt local government. But what is really going on? As usual, 5G, like 4G and 3G before it is mostly a marketing term and most of what you’re being told isn’t accurate.
This move by the Trump administration and FCC is significant whether you support 5G or not. Why? Because, you can no longer say that this administration supports the values of small government, or cares about local, or state’s rights, after this. The new FCC rules, paired with corrupt local companies like Puget Sound Energy (PSE), the aforementioned wireless companies, and corrupt local officials allow the small cells to be installed virtually anywhere the companies deem fit. They can do it virtually whenever they want and wherever they want. The best we get for a guarantee is a bunch of loose promises about the “preferred installation heights and some camouflage” which will go out the windows if a competitor wants to install gear on the same pole.
The partnership of PSE and Verizon, for example, allows small cells to be installed in communities without real notice, with few benefits to those communities, and whether people in those communities want them there or not. PSE does not provide maps for these installations and makes about 600 times more off of each pole rental than similar companies do in other communities.
This makes it a direct conflict of interest for any PSE employee or investor to vote on these matters, but that’s exactly what Pinky Vargas does. Still, her conflicts pale in comparison with the total and complete incompetence when it comes to technology that Doug Ericksen displayed at the recent Point Roberts candidate night when he fawned over his big telecom owners and made sure to mention them and their importance as often as possible. He even erroneously claimed that Net-Neutrality was a complex issue when the truth is that it is the least complex way to route traffic. He also seemed totally unaware of the fact that small, internet-based businesses are one of the largest growth sectors in the economy, that fiber is used to back up all of the other technologies he mentioned, and that breaking up virtual monopolies is a good thing in general. He even seemed to think it was silly that California was fighting the FCC, and Ericksen was more than willing to use Big Brother to bring down California for daring to fight his friends. I guess he is also unaware that 87% of Americans support net-neutrality, California is a world leader in the development of new technology, and California is the 5th largest economy in the world. In short, they are well equipped to fight the FCC on this issue and win. If a few other states like Washington really join them the FCC doesn’t stand a chance. I hope at this point they don’t resort to violence against their own citizens, like they allowed that at Standing Rock. It should be noted that Ericksen already backed up forcibly removing protestors from BP and similar locations at the same meeting. I don’t think sending troops to California, to enforce the will of the big telecoms, is too far fetched in his mind. I sincerely hope I am wrong on that point. After all, the internet is not as valuable as human life.
Still, you get the sense when it comes to tech that our choice between Pinky and Doug is very much like the choice in candidates mentioned on South Park in 2004 and again in 2016. You know, where neither choice is good, but you’ll just have to pick the lesser of two evils. Is anyone else sick of that?
The FCC rules also don’t allow local governments to charge reasonable franchise fees for small cell installs. This may sound good at first. Fewer fees must mean cheaper service right? Well, no. The fees were never so high that they significantly affected your price. In fact, nationwide Verizon and other similar companies will only save about $2 billion. While that might sound like a lot, spread that out across 50 states. Then remember that in 2017 alone Verizon made $126.034 Billion. AT&T made $160.546 Billion. The list goes on and you can see the revenues by company at www.macrotrends.net
What it means is that the amount these companies are stealing from local governments will not reduce the cost of your service. Or, if you’re on the side of the White House on this one, their savings in franchise fees is virtually nothing. In fact, the way that 5G is being done at this time will actually make the Digital Divide worse.
It is a lot for PSE, though.They will make about $600 per pole for small cell attachments. Since each pole may have multiple small cells on it, this fee can be multiplied three or possibly more times. Again, this highlights why having PSE employees on council, just like having Verizon employees head up the FCC, may not be such a good idea. It also highlights why placing our critical infrastructure into the hands of private companies like PSE is a bad idea. At the end of the day they own the poles and will do just about whatever they want with them. Oh, but keep paying your bills.
I got a first-hand view of just how deeply tied the upper echelon of our government is to PSE when our public works director, Ted Carlson, threatened to end my meeting about broadband when I mentioned how overpriced and poor PSE’s infrastructure is. They simply will not hear anyone out when it comes to PSE. This alone should make the argument for the necessity of public infrastructure.
Let’s get into the specifics.
Since many people have asked for it, I’ll start with the health issues surrounding 5G.
Wireless technology is NOT safe and never has been. It is convenient, NOT safe. Don’t believe me, just look in the owners’ manual of your cell phone. Here is a short list for convenience. It will tell you that you should not use the phone within one inch of yourself and that’s just for starters. The FCC, until the Ajit Pai administration, stated that they were unsure of the effects of wireless on children. The document has been updated since then to side with the big telecom view on 5G safety. However, on the other side there are plenty of companies trying to sell you electromagnetic shielding (EMF) too. So what’s the truth?
The bottom line here is that enough testing has not been done. I was about 60/40 on the issue a few months ago, but as time goes on I have changed my mind. I am now 75 percent against and 25 percent for. I want to see us move forward, but history shows us that if we don’t watch and regulate corporations, they will release dangerous technology and then claim that it is safe. Corporations told us that lead in gas was safe, that working in coal mines doesn’t cause black lung disease. And how about the Chevy Corvair (the car so unsafe, addressing the many issues with it would solidify Ralph Nader’s career). I could go on with examples like how the gas companies pollute people’s water and then get them to sign gag orders, individually singling them out so they can’t organize and file class action lawsuits against them, just to partially clean up the water the companies themselves polluted in the first place. There is a lot of dark money and bad data out there trying to hide the fact that EMF/RF has been classified as a “possible Group 2B human carcinogen.”
When is it unsafe? When you are exposed to it. How much exposure do you need? It depends on many complex factors like your weight, age, bio-chemistry, and of course the intensity of the radiation and your proximity to the emitter. How we got from understanding with the detonation of the atomic bomb that radiation is not safe — to accepting ever increasing levels of radiation in our daily lives without question seems like brainwashing. We do this even after more and more legitimate experts come out with concerns about millimeter-wave technology. Here is a great link to a TedX talk about it conducted by an electrical engineer with decades of experience in silicon valley. I wrote an entire e-mail with peer-reviewed sources that I sent to our city council months ago. It was as long as this article. It was of course ignored by everyone but Michael Lilliquist, and even he is hiding behind the FCC. I wonder if hiding behind the FCC will be enough when this tech is proven to be unsafe. Guess we want to find out the hard way, because that’s what we’re doing.
Among the organizations that were concerned about 5G were the NIH, CDC EPA, FCC (until Ajit Pai), the State of California, the Environmental Health Trust, many local professionals including mechanical and electrical engineers, the European Journal of Oncology, more and more pros from Silicon Valley, many doctors; the list goes on. The one thing that is clear is that as many people think it’s safe as think it’s dangerous. Disturbingly the governmental organizations recently, and almost uniformly, changed their tune with this FCC and the appointments made by this administration. Here is a link to a site called “The Parents for Safe Technology,” that has kept track of most of the changes to government documents since this administration took over. Here is a link to an article by the NIH showing that millimeter-waves (aka 5G) not only damage cells but cause odd fear response behaviors in other mammals. It’s not a technology that we technically need. So let’s do more testing.
Sure, humans are bombarded by radiation everyday, but our ability to deal with it comes down to our level of exposure. For example, skin cancers are on the rise with the constant depletion of the ozone layer which increases our exposure to UV radiation. While we may enjoy some time in the sun, it is generally accepted that we need to shield ourselves from overexposure using sun screen, going indoors, or through some other means. 5G will be virtually everywhere, with the options of being able to simply “get away from it” being very limited as millions of small cell devices are rolled out.
You may say, “but the market will balance problems like this out.” To that I would say, well OK, Volvo always took safety seriously, In fact, in a Dr. Salk like move the engineer of Volvo who developed the 3-point seat belt, Nils Bohlin, gave away the patent for the seat belt, saying, “it was too important not to share.” Still, this blows the market argument out of the water because even though the patent for the 3-point seat belt was free and the belts themselves were not expensive, many other car manufacturers argued that the required belts that we take for granted today were “an unnecessary optional add on.” They would still be treating them as premium accessories if we let them and, by the time they were done, millions more people would have died on our roads. This kind of recklessness in regard to the safety of their customers would require federal regulation to correct.
So how does this relate to 5G? Well, the standard wasn’t even going to be ready until 2022 at first. They say they are getting it out there faster now, but that’s largely because they are cutting corners and skipping testing — especially independent testing. Too bad we don’t live in a town with a great university in it that could do some independent testing …. Oh wait, we do!I have suggested this to the COB, but with a public works director that runs out before 5G public commentary is made, the results were as expected.
The EPA uses the standards of micro-Teslas and milli-Gauss to rate electromagnetic fields (EMF) exposure, a very accurate way to measure the effect of radiation by its effect in meters. The current FCC, uses a much less accurate means of measurement called Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) which tries to determine the effects of EMF by watts per kilogram. Why does this matter? Well, it says that if you weigh less you will have more exposure. So, for example, if you’re a kid you will have more exposure and probably exceed the recommended safe limits. It also, assumes a best-case scenario. Making a meaningful conversion between the two systems is hard, but the EPA standard is more accurate.
In general, systems should be designed to tolerate the worst case scenario. Assuming a best-case scenario, like that kids will be inside often enough to have most of their exposure filtered out, is a reckless and immature way to design any safety standard. Also, rolling out 5G ahead of schedule, without more testing, will make the test population you and your family. It will make us the guinea pigs.
Keeping up with China.
This is a joke. We can’t keep up with China on networking including with 5G. Why? Because China manufactures most of the fiber-optic cabling in the world. Fiber isn’t expensive here, and it’s even less expensive in China. Small cells, like the ones used in 5G, have to be hooked up to fiber-optic cabling and since China installs their fiber in a public manner they can leverage it for use in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible. You can say that we have more fiber, at least for now, but since it’s privately owned it can’t be used as efficiently and access to it should largely be viewed separately by company. Until recently you could have made the “big brother argument” for our freedoms versus the Chinese, but the loss of Net-Neutrality paired with the Patriot Act, means that we too have censorship and government spying on average citizens.
It will solve rural broadband issues and give more people access and eliminate gaps in coverage.
This is probably the funniest lie of all. 5G is going to be so expensive that it will actually increase the digital divide. On top of that, wireless networks are much less reliable and require significant updates much more often than wired fiber-optic networks. They also, are more expensive to install since they are an extension to fiber. So again, you can make the convenience argument here, but not a reliability one. At best wireless is a complimentary technology to fiber, not a replacement.
In Bellingham, like many other areas, 5G will not work well without lots of small cells. Why? Because the millimeter waves that 5G uses bounce off of, are absorbed by, and get scattered by just about everything. Even heavy rain. Good thing we live in the flat arid desert environment of Bellingham. Phew! All of the small cells, therefore, have to be backed up by fiber anyway. This, and the many other short-comings of 5G are highlighted in the book, “The 5G Myth” which I have recommended to the council on more than one occasion. The book also highlights many, better, alternatives to 5G.
As far as rural areas go, in 1936 we ran electricity to rural areas as part of the Rural Electrification Act. We didn’t do this entirely out of benevolence. We did it to make the most important workers in our civilization, farmers, more efficient. Now they need broadband, so we need to run them fiber. They can hook other things up to it once it’s there, if they want to, but we need to run it to them in the first place. Why? Because of technological advancements in agriculture, their educational needs, and all of the other reasons I’ve written about before.
While talking about the needs of broadband in rural American, Doug Ericksen recently talked about how they are constantly talking to their big telecom partners about serving rural areas. He mentioned 5G and satellites, apparently totally unaware of the aforementioned issues here and of the fact that all of this tech has to be backed up by fiber. Historically, big telecoms never do a good job in rural areas since the population density is simply not high enough for them to really spend money on infrastructure, support, or really anything else in rural areas. They didn’t do a good job in the past in rural areas, and they’re not going to start now. Also, remember, 5G from big telecom like Verizon won’t be affordable to most people in rural areas.
Historically, we did give big telecom a chance to serve rural areas. They never took it seriously, stole $400 billion dollars from us, and even pulled out of some towns. This prompted many small towns to create their own networks. This is the best solution for rural areas. Why? Because grants exist to help them. Because no telecom is ever going to take serving small communities seriously. Because it increases their local self-reliance. Because it gives them more reliable, better service than any big telecom ever will. Because they have the equipment and know-how to build a fiber-based network themselves. Because they can hook whatever they want up to the network once it’s built, including wireless devices if they want to.So why would they overpay anyone else to do it?
“Oh Jon, you’re full of crap. I searched about this topic myself and all I get is good stuff about 5G.”
“Yep, that’s because we lost net-neutrality and the big telecoms can flood the internet with pro-5G garbage, effectively drowning out any real discussion on the topic.”
The Path Forward:
In my e-mail to the City Council about the cumulative dangers of EMF/RF exposure, I highlighted many reasonable compromises. I will do so again here.
0. We need to halt the installation of small cells and commission WWU and WSU to do proper, independent, studies of 5G technology. This includes demanding that PSE and the wireless providers provide maps of small cell installations well before they are done. Since it affects the whole community, this seems only fair.
1. The biggest problem with wireless technology and performance is a lack of adequate fiber for backhaul. So again, we need cheap fiber. The best way to do that is to establish a DIg Once Policy, and create public infrastructure.
2. We need to demand that spectrum is licensed in a more effective way. Had Apple not throttled your iPhones to force upgrades and companies like Verizon had actually built the 4G LTE networks they said they were going to, very few of you would feel the need to upgrade. Your phones would last three times as long and perform about 10 times better than they do. 4G LTE is actually better at covering large areas than 5G because the waves are bigger. 4G can also make sure of small cells.
3. Companies like Verizon should pay for reasonable EMF shielding to be installed near residences in direct line of sight of small cells and towers. Remember, there are restrictions on how close a tower can be placed to residences. That’s because living under a tower is a bad idea. Now we’re all going to get to live by millions of smaller towers called small cells and we aren’t 100% sure that they’re safe.
4. An option like wi-fi calling will allow us to use the broadband connections we overpay for to make calls on, largely removing the need to use cell towers for calls in the first place. Carriers should be required to provide this option on all of their phones.
5. We should require providers to use a DAS (distributed antenna system) instead of small cells. This alternate system is much more attractive and has much less impact.
I’ll close on the quick reminder that fiber is totally safe and costs less than fishing line. I have confirmed with Mount Vernon that they usually install conduit with fiber for $180,000 a mile. That’s well below anything our government quotes. We need a good answer as to why.