Health studies of 5G technology urged by city

February 14, 2020

Following resident concerns regarding the installation of 5G technologies in the public right-of-way and questions regarding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation and oversight, at their meeting on Monday, February 10, Birmingham City Commissioners unanimously supported a resolution urging state legislators and the federal government to initiate a study of the health effects of small cell towers built to accommodate the technology.

The resolution also seeks to have the state and federal governments develop installation guidelines to protect the health and welfare of residents.

“We have been contacted by residents, and are in the first stages of being contacted by providers to install this new technology,” city manager Joe Valentine said.

On March 12, 2019 the Michigan Small Wireless Communications Facilities Deployment Act took effect, mirroring the FCC's Small Cell Order. Attorney Jane Awdish, from Beier Howlett, explained, “The act encourages the deployment of small wireless infrastructure in the right-of-way and sets a regulatory framework for municipalities to process applications from wireless providers… Congress has conferred jurisdiction to the FCC to regulate telecommunications. Thus, despite any state law relating to the deployment of this wireless infrastructure, local municipalities wishing to prohibit the deployment of 5G infrastructure are preempted by the FCC and its recent orders.”

While there is a federal lawsuit challenging both the act and the small cell order, Awdish said neither are likely to be decided any time soon.

“We can't prohibit them (the installation of 5G),” Awdish said. “What can be done is adopt a resolution to urge the state legislature and federal government to initiate further studies of the health effects of 5G technologies to develop and protect the health and welfare of residents.”

Valentine said the resolution would be sent to both U.S. Senators and all of the state's members of Congress, as well as the state Senators and Representatives.

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