Tech

Verizon’s 5G is being installed, but not without backlash from local residents

The advent of 5G seems to be on its way, but the response has not been completely positive. A large group of residents in Oakmore, a small single-family neighbourhood of Oakland, California, recently received an envelope from the company ‘OnAir’. It contained a flyer asking them to Verizon’s local open house where they Verizon would explain how it will be installing 16 new wireless antennas in the area.

The letter’s message seemed quite enthusiastic: “Verizon Wireless is improving wireless service in Oakland!” the notice read.

Alexis Schroeder, long time Oakmore resident, attended the meeting and was disappointed with the lack of straight answers. As a Verizon customer, she admitted that the new antennas could benefit her personally, but she believes that Verizon and their FCC backers are bullying their way through the proper procedure.

“I don’t like that this corporate giant thinks it can take advantage of these neighbours. They did a poor job representing their company,” said Shroeder.

Oakland is one of many cities that will feel the impact as wireless carriers like Verizon spend billions of dollars to expand their networks and invigorate their 5G service capabilities. Instead of relying on massive cellular towers, carriers need “small cell” antennas placed only a few hundred feet apart. The small cell is about the size of a schoolboy’s book-bag and is usually installed on the top of an existing pole or streetlight. The small antennas aren’t as powerful as cell towers, covering about 1000 ft rather than 3-4 miles. Therefore, carriers need many of these antennas to supply an area with 5G cell service.

The geographical make-up of Oakmore makes it an ideal area for such ‘small cell’ tech installation. The area runs across some of the rolling hills that rise from the San Francisco Bay area. On the neighbourhoods western side, the hills drop abruptly into a canyon with redwoods and oak trees, all of which can mess with wireless signals.

With regards to the 16 small cells Verizon has planned for the area, the tech firm has filed applications for five with the Oakland Planning Commission. Schroeder is aware that it will be very difficult for her to completely halt the ensuing installations, but she welcomes the challenge. A self-employed bookkeeper, she has raised two children in the Oakmore area with her husband and feels compelled to defend her community.  

 Many are eager for better wireless reception on services for their phones and security systems. As more people ditch landlines, cities are becoming more and more dependent on faster mobile networks to provide the most basic of services, such as emergency response. Even in Oakmore, residents such as Dr. Myles Lampenfeld, welcome the 5G wire antennas and are sceptical of sceptics like Schroeder.

However, for family homeowners like Schroeder, the concept of antennas “sprouting like weeds” around their neighbourhood has made residents concerned about property values, neighbourhood clutter, and more importantly safety. Many scientific studies have shown that the wireless antennas cause RF/MW radiation that can cause debilitating health effects.

Oakmore and may other towns will be fighting their city halls, leaving officials with the difficult job of addressing their constituents while also adhering to a government insistent on going ahead with 5G installation.

Schroeder insists that she is by no means against better cell service but fears the costs of a 5G leap. If Verizon can install their sleek antennas and guarantee their tech initiatives are safe, she will be content. Cities are able to assess an antenna’s design when they improve applications such as Verizon, but they are not allowed to determine the safety of wireless signals under the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

“I know I can’t fight things about the health issues, because the FCC has handcuffed us. I’m not affected by property values because I’m not moving…My bigger issue personally is I don’t want it to be David vs Goliath.”