5g cell tower

Cell towers may soon be equipped with 5G technology. (Carl Lender/Flickr)

Eugene residents gathered at Harris Hall downtown Wednesday, Oct. 9 to listen to the City Council’s responses to community input over the past year in regards to the number of “small cell” antennas being put up on light posts around town in relation to 5G — the next generation of wireless data that will bring faster internet to all.

The world’s global telecommunication companies are in a race to officially launch 5G. The Federal Communications Commission said in a statement from September 2018, “The FCC is committed to doing our part to help ensure the United States wins the global race to 5G to the benefit of all Americans.” 

None of the installed equipment in Eugene is currently transmitting 5G waves. city officials said at the meeting. “At this point, these antennas are transmitting 4G and are located in areas to improve connectivity and speed. We expect that the cell providers will ultimately seek permits to upgrade these new antennas,”  said mayor and city council support staff member, Elena Domingo, on the blog, Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor. 

In the meeting Wednesday, Scott Milovitch, Public Works Maintenance Division Manager said, “We permit this service by the same basic rules and guidelines as any other utility service operating in the right of way.” The guidelines were created in 2014 and amended three times since, the last being in 2018. 

Families for SAFE Technology, a local nonprofit “seeking alternatives to 5G/smart meter microwave EMF for Eugene, Oregon,” according to its website, has stated that it “cares deeply about what the telecom industry is perpetrating against us, all in the name of profit,” according to a press release about Wednesday’s meeting. Eugene resident William Hamilton said he thinks 5G is a “big marketing ploy being pitched as a solution to their piss poor networks.”  

Wednesday’s meeting was not open to public comment, but the city said in the meeting, the “city of Eugene standards and requirements are developed by us and are intended to be reflective of our community’s values and goals.”  

City Code allows for the “small cell” equipment, (low-power cell sites related to 5G) to be installed thanks to arrangements made between EWEB and AT&T and Mobilities, two companies working under Sprint, assuming proper permits are acquired and approved. According to a city recap of Wednesday’s meeting, Eugene currently has a total of 33 antennas installed, 13 of which are transmitting 4G right now.

Families for SAFE Technology stated in the press release for the meeting Wednesday that the “negative impacts of the 5G implementation will not only devastated the wellbeing of humans, but the environment as well.” Citizens are concerned for their own health but also for the birds, insects and plants to which 24 hour exposure is unavoidable, according to the press release.

 There is also indication of industry bias involved in the research that is being done. A study done by Environmental Health Perspectives found that when industry researchers looked into correlations of cell phone usage and brain tumors, there was a 33% correlation, while non-industry studies showed an 82% correlation. 

The city is not legally allowed to place restrictions on 5G technology’s installation involving radio frequency emission health concerns, according to a debrief of Wednesday’s meeting. If the proposed facilities comply with the FCC’s standards, it’s a go-ahead. But the city does require applications have a stamp of approval from the radio frequency engineer before being submitted, to verify compliance with these standards. Additionally, in April this year, the city drafted Resolution No. 5264, asking the federal government to update studies on the health risks associated with the increased deployment of this technology. 

Hamilton said of the health concerns, “At some point the lack of connectivity is more detrimental than any possible health impacts because the network is a really important part of living in the world and being upwardly mobile.” 

For the U.S. to win the 5G race, it would win control over much of the global economy in the future. This is because 5G technology will likely contribute to innovations in all industries that are in pursuit of technological advancements, such as self-driving cars and other forms of artificial intelligence.