The average person probably thinks that the new 5G (fifth generation) is just the next best thing after the current 4G wireless standard. While faster sounds better, there are many reasons for concern about the current global race to implement 5G.
5G uses a new higher-frequency bandwidth that doesn’t travel as far and is blocked by buildings and trees. As a result, “small cell” transmitters/receivers are now being located every 250 to 500 feet within cities on existing utility poles.
While an individual carrier like AT&T will likely seek to install roughly one 5G transmitter per city block, each additional carrier serving Eugene will require their own separate small cell installations. There are already about 110 new small cells installed in Eugene. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To get 5G service from multiple carriers citywide, it will require thousands of small cells in Eugene and millions around the country.
These brown, small-cell canisters, and their associated hardware, are being installed on top of EWEB power poles in public right-of-way on sidewalks. They are being placed right in front of people’s homes with no notice and no right to appeal. One could appear in front of your bedroom window at any time. It will be emitting high-frequency microwave radiation 24 hours a day.
Are they safe? While this question seems paramount, there have been no studies showing 5G radiation is safe. There have been many studies showing that older forms of wireless radiation cause health effects, but nothing on 5G. Nor do we know how the new “phased array” beam technology used by 5G will affect humans and the environment. So basically we are engaging in a giant experiment in total Wi-Fi immersion and all of us are the guinea pigs.
To support the 5G system around the globe, more than 7,500 new satellites will be launched into space, greatly exceeding the 2,000 currently in orbit.
All of this will be done to achieve a new transmission speed that is of dubious value to most people. While 5G is said to be 10 to 100 times faster than 4G, there is already a better technology — fiber optics — that is a thousand times faster than 5G and is safe, secure and reliable. But the telecom companies are pursuing 5G because it’s the cheapest way to expand consumption of wireless services.
We could pursue a different path in Eugene. EWEB could expand its existing fiber optic system beyond downtown to serve the entire city, providing us with a vastly superior alternative to Comcast cable, potentially at a lower cost.
In the meantime we need to properly regulate the installation of small cell 5G transmitters in Eugene to protect the public health, safety and welfare. We need to address the potential fire hazards, adverse effects on property values and legal liability issues. Many cities are now updating their 20-year-old telecom ordinances and requiring that 5G transmitters be located a minimum distance away from residences and schools, like the city of Petaluma, California, has done.
Eben Fodor is a community-planning consultant. His firm, Fodor & Associates, is based in Eugene and does land use and growth management consulting, development impact analysis and sustainable community planning. To learn more about 5G see friendsofamazoncreek.org and ourtownourchoice.org.