Community forum: Keeping technology in balance



By Diana Newman

Full disclosure regarding the various potential uses and impacts of the proposed Vertical Bridge tower in Southwest Harbor is important. To be told that it is not the business of the federal government or the citizenry to know its purpose in our region warrants further inquiry.

Vertical Bridge is the leading telecom tower company in the country. Jeb Bush is listed as being an independent director on its board of directors. It has global reach, as well, being cited as one of the key players in the highly lucrative, burgeoning market for surveillance towers in the Asia-Pacific.

Sadly, many of our regulatory agencies have become corrupted due to the increasing placement of former lobbyists and industry leaders into them. This used to be considered a conflict of interest. The FCC has become increasingly dominated by the wireless industry. For example, its former chairman was previously the president and main lobbyist of CTIA, the leading wireless trade organization. Whereas the EPA used to study and propose safety standards for both thermal and nonthermal levels of radiation, it now narrows its purview to just thermal. This omission literally could prove deadly.

Peer reviewed studies undertaken by researchers other than those in the employ of the FCC clearly indicate a consensus that low intensity radiofrequencies, particularly those below thermal, can cause a host of human health problems ranging from cognitive, fertility, neurological, cellular and immunological. Other studies point to higher cancer rates near cell towers.

Compliance with current land use ordinances, concerns regarding potential visual impacts within Acadia National Park, and impact upon bat populations all are valid concerns. Also of paramount importance are any potential impacts on the health and safety of residents.

Should not the right to informed consent regarding powerful infrastructure that may have negative impacts on the health and privacy of residents be absolutely respected and protected as a basic civil right in a democracy?

A further concern is that there is a push to enact federal legislation (such as the Mobile Now Act) as well as various related legislation at state levels that effectively would serve to exempt wireless transmitter facilities from health, safety and environmental review. If these technologies are so safe, why is such an exemption being sought?

While many of us think of these towers as being primarily cell phone towers, multi-use towers go well beyond this capability. They lease out parts of the tower to various enterprises. Among other things, these towers are equipped to serve the needs of microdata centers, surveillance and will be used to support the coming “internet of things.” The towers also can create an efficient cloud interface at the city or even regional level. On the surface of it, this may sound like cutting edge progress and the telecom industry will cite its own studies to assure the public that its operation will be within safe limits for human exposure.

The internet of things that is being hailed as a harbinger of progress will utilize 5G microwave technology. 5G is raising intense concerns among many independent researchers in that its ultra-high intensity/frequencies are well beyond the 2G, 3G, and 4G, which are already highly concerning. Because the 5G microwaves are very short, they will require the installation of transmitters throughout neighborhoods in order to accomplish the roll out of the internet of things. We would then find our homes continuously bombarded with extremely high frequency, highly intensity wireless radiation.

The bottom line is, who and what will help us assure our privacy, safety and health? Do we have the right to inquiry? Do we have a say? The Southwest Harbor Planning Board will discuss the proposed tower in relation to compliance with land use ordinances on April 26. Sadly, it may be beyond the procedural scope of the meeting to allow inquiry or comment regarding potential health and privacy impacts. Where will that leave those of us who are concerned?

Diana Newman is an activist and musician, part of the duo Timbered Lake. She lives in Southwest Harbor.

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