Shortly before midnight on October 15, Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 649, legislation promoted by the CTIA-The Wireless Association and the telecommunications industry.
SB 649 would undermine the ability of local governments to control the public rights of way in order to facilitate the telecom industry's deployment of up to 50,000 new cell antenna sites in the state. The bill would significantly increase exposure to microwave radiation, and for the first time expose the population to millimeter radiation.
Over 180 scientists and doctors signed a declaration demanding a moratorium on the increase of cell antennas for planned 5G expansion. Concerns over health effects from higher radiation exposure include potential neurological impacts, infertility, and cancer.
Over 300 cities and almost four dozen counties opposed the bill. Wireless safety and environmental health advocates from throughout California organized to oppose this bill and educate legislators and the governor about the risks to health and safety that this bill poses.
News stories regarding the Governor's veto:
San Francisco Chronicle
July 27, 2017 (updated Oct 17, 2017)
My editorial note:
The telecommunications industry has proposed legislation in many states that would alter the local permit process that the industry must undertake prior to installing transmitters, antennas and other equipment in people's neighborhoods.
In California, the adoption of Senate Bill 649 would impair the authority of local governments in order to facilitate the telecom industry's installation of thirty to fifty thousand new cell antenna sites. This would result in significantly increased exposure of the population to electromagnetic fields (EMF).
234 experts from 41 nations have petitioned the United Nations and the World Health Organization about the adverse biologic and health impacts of EMF exposure. All of the scientists who signed the EMF Scientist Appeal have published research on this topic in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
The Appeal states that current international EMF exposure guidelines are obsolete and inadequate to protect human health and the environment. The Appeal calls for a public health review of the growing body of scientific evidence that includes reports of increasing rates of cancer and neurological diseases that may be caused by exposure to EMF from wireless sources.
As one of the advisors to the Appeal, I recommend a moratorium on installation of cell antennas until our government commissions an independent review of the biologic and health research to determine stringent radio frequency standards that ensure our safety.
On September 13, over 180 scientists and doctors from 35 countries sent a declaration to officials of the European Commission demanding a moratorium on the increase of cell antennas for planned 5G expansion. Concerns over health effects from higher radiation exposure include potential neurological impacts, infertility, and cancer.
In the U.S., the Federal Communication Commission's radio frequency guidelines were adopted more than two decades ago and address only risks from heating (i.e., thermal effects). The guidelines were not designed to protect the population from verifiable non-thermal health risks associated with wireless radiation exposure.
Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D.
Scientists and Doctors Demand Moratorium on 5G
5G Wireless Technology: Is 5G Harmful to Our Health?
5G Wireless Technology: Millimeter Wave Health Effects
Cell Tower Health Effects
Editorial Board, Mercury News, Oct 20, 2017
Sometimes good government is less about making good things happen than stopping bad things from happening.
In that spirit — thank you, Gov. Jerry Brown ….
He also rejected a bill to take disputes over water rights away from the State Water Resources Control Board — that is, the experts — and assign them to administrative law judges unlikely to be sufficiently educated in the highly complex field. Guess who wins in that scenario.
The cell antenna bill was the most flagrant sellout by the Legislature. Hundreds of cities and nearly 50 counties were up in arms, faced with losing substantial revenue — at least $30 million a year statewide and likely much more.
Even more galling, communities would have been stripped of bargaining power to get companies to provide high speed service to poor neighborhoods even though the wealthy ones that generate most of their profits.
As one example of potential harm, the law would have given the companies priority over cities’ and counties’ own plans for public safety communications equipment on public property.
In his veto message, Brown, who has served as Oakland’s mayor, mentioned the questionable legality of taking away communities’ right to control their own property, among other valid criticisms. Questionable indeed.
Lawmakers who pushed this bill, SB 649 by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, should be ashamed of themselves. It was a direct sellout to a powerful industry at the expense of constituents ….
On both these bills, Brown stood for broad public rights against moneyed interests. It was the governor at his best.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation Sunday, acknowledging the value of deploying wireless technology “rapidly and efficiently” but adding that he favors “a more balanced solution than the one achieved in this bill.” Indeed, Senate Bill 649, authored by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and passed by the Legislature last month, would have all but given away public infrastructure to wealthy corporations.
Verizon, AT&T and other wireless providers have pushed such legislation here and elsewhere to ease deployment of so-called small-cell equipment that boosts coverage provided by larger cell towers, particularly in urban areas and in anticipation of fifth-generation (5G) network technology. The bill would have granted the companies rights similar to those of utilities, leaving local governments with limited power to set fees or restrict placement on streetlights and traffic signal poles.
The companies, which have spent tens of millions of dollars on political contributions in California over the past few years, already enjoy generous state and federal protections. They shouldn’t get unfettered use of what was built and paid for by the public.
Editorial Board, Sacramento Bee, Sep 28, 2017
The following editorials oppose the 5G "small cell" antenna bills proposed by the telecommunications/wireless industry in numerous states across the country.
"The telecom corporations want to streamline permitting and reduce costs for slapping their transmitters — ranging in size from a pizza box to a small refrigerator — on municipal utility poles, street lights and traffic signals wherever they want....
In Sacramento, the telecoms have hoards of money to fuel legislators’ reelection campaigns, and they routinely spend it.
During the last election cycle, AT&T doled out more than $1.6 million to political groups and politicians. It didn’t discriminate among parties. Virtually everyone got a piece. The California Democratic Party was given $615,000. But the Republican Party got even more, $625,000.
AT&T also spent $250,000 on the annual Speaker’s Cup golf tournament at the world-class Pebble Beach course. That’s the Assembly Democrats’ big fundraiser.
By contrast, the League of California Cities and other local government organizations aren’t allowed to spend a dime on politicians because their money comes from taxpayers. They do lobby, however." (Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2017)
A state bill that would give huge telecom companies a financial break and unprecedented rights to use public property at almost no cost is sailing through the Legislature this summer.
Why? Money, of course. Telecom companies measure profits in the tens of billions. California lawmakers understand this, so that’s whose side they’re on. The bill sailed through the Senate. Now it’s up to the Assembly to stand up for communities — particularly low-income neighborhoods — that will be harmed by it.
SB 649 would prohibit cities from any discretionary review or public say on plans to put “small cell” wireless antennas on publicly owned light poles and other structures in any neighborhood. (Yes, even your neighborhood.) And it would sharply limit fees that cities charge private industry for using property or facilities that taxpayers have paid for.
Sponsored by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, SB 649 is billed as cutting through permitting red tape and improving cell phone service. But it will slash existing revenue to cities such as San Francisco, which stands to lose millions of dollars a year. And it will eviscerate cities’ ability to bring high-speed Internet service to low-income neighborhoods, as San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has promised to do for East San Jose.
Other mayors are joining Liccardo and the League of California Cities to fight this outrageous power grab by the state and telecoms. We hope it’s not too late.
Here are a few of SB 649’s problems:
By preventing cities from negotiating over antenna locations, the bill eliminates their ability to push companies to provide high-speed access in underprivileged areas. Without that leverage, companies will focus only on areas where they make the most money.
By limiting fees, the bill deprives cities of revenue they could use to increase access to broadband in those poor neighborhoods. Companies will save an estimated $30 million statewide over 10 years — at the cost of public services.
By making public property broadly available to for-profit companies, the bill will limit cities’ and counties’ ability to locate their own communication equipment, such as police and fire systems and equipment from partners — potentially Facebook in San Jose — working on ways to help equalize Internet access.
And wait until neighbors find out they have no say over the clumps of electronic equipment that show up on light poles near their houses. But state legislators don’t care about that. People won’t call them; they’ll scream to the local mayor and council members.
The bill sets a terrible precedent of forcing communities to all but give away public property for private profit. Yet it passed the Assembly local government committee last week and goes to the Communication and Conveyance Committee on July 12.
So — where are area Assembly members? Ash Kalra? Marc Berman? Evan Low?
They’re fresh from serving on city councils. They could lead the fight to stop SB 649 in the Assembly and be the heroes of local government. And their voters.
except when they don’t
Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2017
Telecommunications companies are preparing to roll out the next generation of wireless networks, dubbed “5G,” which promise an enormous increase in capacity and connectivity. These networks not only will increase competition in broadband, they are a key enabling technology for a host of advanced products and services. They also represent a gateway to better economic opportunities in inner-city areas that are underserved by broadband today.
But these new networks are different in structure and appearance too. Instead of high-powered antennas on tall towers, they rely on an array of lower-power transmitters closer to the ground that serve much smaller “cells.” That’s why mobile phone companies are concerned that cities and counties will throw up bureaucratic or financial roadblocks to 5G in their communities. It’s not a groundless worry; wireless companies already have encountered local resistance in places where they have introduced the new technology.
It’s the look and the intrusiveness of the small cell networks that seems to spark the controversy. People are upset about the deployment of thousands of pieces of equipment the size of small appliances being placed strategically and liberally on publicly owned “vertical infrastructure” (that’s bureaucratese for municipal utility poles, street lights and even traffic lights). That means a lot of equipment in full view and in proximity — really close in some cases — to houses and people.
Local governments must retain some authority to push back on proposed deployments.
There is precedent for this kind of brazen move: The phone and cable TV companies persuaded the Legislature in 2006 to end local control over the construction of new cable TV systems, arguing that a shift to state licensing would bring much-needed competition to pay TV. But that logic doesn’t apply to the mobile phone market, where there is vibrant competition. Local government officials are crying foul, calling it an audacious power grab and the equivalent of a gift of public funds to billion-dollar telecommunications companies that don’t need the help.
The new mobile networks also will involve much more equipment in public view than an upstart cable TV system. Wireless companies say that the transmitters are typically the size of a pizza box or briefcase, although the bill would allow equipment up to the size of a small refrigerator.
Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), the author of SB 649, argues that wireless upgrades are a public benefit, and therefore local governments should not have the right to endanger them with unreasonable hurdles. Besides, he says, the more that individual cities are allowed to charge for their pole rentals, the less that wireless companies will have left for network upgrades in other, possibly more needy communities. But the bill goes far beyond setting a reasonable fee to access public property; it would usurp the rights of cities and counties to make decisions about how to use their property. Those rights include the right to make the wrong decisions.
It’s clearly in everyone’s best interest for 5G networks to be deployed, and surely most local governments would agree. But why shouldn’t cities and counties be able to try to leverage their assets to get a good deal for residents as part of the process, or take the time to get the public’s input on what could be a significant change to their physical and virtual landscapes?
Small cell technology does not have to be obtrusive or unattractive, nor will every street in a community necessarily require outfitting. That’s why local governments must retain some authority to push back on proposed deployments. Left to their own devices, telecommunications companies would naturally opt for the most efficient and cost-effective configuration when making a capital investment. Their goals are making profits and serving customers, not making a city look nice.
The telecommunication industry has been pushing this “streamlining” strategy in other states, with various degrees of success. Eleven have adopted some sort of laws to limit the local permitting process and pole fees. Legislators in other states, like Washington, have been more skeptical. California’s lawmakers ought to be wary as well and show more interest in protecting the rights of communities to govern the use of their infrastructure, rather than letting telecommunication companies make those decisions for them.
A brazen phone power grab
Daily Bruin, July 16, 2017
DanvilleSanRamon, July 6, 2017
Imperial Valley Press, July 16, 2017