Town council concedes 5G is coming to Jackson like it or not

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The town council managed to approve a resolution adopting design standards for wireless facilities no thanks to councilmember Jim Stanford, who has taken every opportunity to rail against the initiative on all fronts.

It was a showdown between the feds and city government come to a head after years of representatives from AT&T and Verizon being largely sent packing time and again when asking for additional cell tower sites. The council has opposed numerous requests and modified others on design grounds mostly, but also in respect to concerns regarding health impacts of radio frequency (RF) emitted by wireless telecommunications facilities.

Representatives repeatedly warned the town that should they continue to be rebuffed they could simply impose their will on Jackson by playing the FCC card. That day, it appears, has finally come.

Along with emerging 5G technology and woefully inadequate cell coverage in the Jackson Hole area, local providers have pressed the council into action that culminated in a resolution at Monday’s regular meeting that spelled out what the town will allow and what it won’t concerning cell towers.

Design standards for small cell facilities are set forth in the town’s resolution passed Monday. (TOJ)

Stanford’s stand

The push to beef up Jackson’s wireless telecommunications comes mainly from the introduction of 5G technology, which carriers say will dramatically improve service, increase download speeds, and pave the way for driverless cars. One noteworthy facet of 5G is that it benefits more from many smaller cell facilities rather than a few large ones.

AT&T in particular is looking to install some 12-15 of these in Jackson, mainly incorporated into street light poles. Company spokesperson Terri Nikole Baca said the installations would be part of an early 5G preparation but the full rollout of the new technology is still some time off. She added that, at the very least, the new mini-facilities would bolster the existing 4G coverage in town, which suffers from overload during peak summer months.

“These are serious issues…and this is where our society is headed. I don’t know, it seems pretty warped to me,” said councilman Jim Stanford. (TOJ)

Stanford wasn’t buying anything AT&T or the FCC was selling.

“It’s like an arms race. Making more money selling more data so more people can do more pointless things on their phone even faster. There’s never enough. Ever. It’s really an insatiable beast,” the senior councilmember lamented.

In a way, he’s right about the arms race. The FCC clearly alludes to a full-court press concerning wireless technology in its Declaratory Ruling and Report of September 2018:

America is in the midst of a transition to the next generation of wireless services, known as 5G. These new services can unleash a new wave of entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic opportunity for communities across the country. 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. Today’s action is the next step in the FCC’s ongoing efforts to remove regulatory barriers that would unlawfully inhibit the deployment of infrastructure necessary to support these new services.

‘Barriers’ to the advancement of infrastructure in Jackson have been council foot-dragging of approvals and Stanford’s one-man ‘Don Quixote’ crusade against overreaching government, mindless consumerism, and unanswered questions concerning the effect of RF on health.

“These requests continue to proliferate and continue encroachment; to the point where we are not going to be able to go out of our own home without being subjected to this,” Stanford complained. “And does 5G come with potentially higher waves of radiation? The federal government has muzzled us from even asking the question. Do we just accept it? Or could we say, ‘In Jackson Hole, Wyoming you can live your life without being bombarded by this all the time.”

Any wiggle room?

The council spent some time with its legal staff asking whether they could resist any longer and what could happen if they did. They also inquired about a class action suit brought against the FCC by more than a dozen communities also unhappy with being force-fed 5G. That challenge has now ben consolidated and will be heard by the 9thCircuit Court.

Health concerns top the list for reasons residents are wary wireless telecommunication facilities. The ‘towers’ emit RF thought by many in the healthcare industry to carry increased risk of brain cancer, among other health concerns.

That cause has been taken up by a few DC lawmakers including Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) During a US Senate committee hearing on the future of 5G February 9, 2019, Blumenthal said, “I believe the American people deserve to know what the health effects are. We are flying blind here on health and safety.”

Dr. Devra Davis, PhD MPH, Founder and President of Environmental Health Trust which she launched in 2007, is internationally known for her work on disease prevention and environmental health factors, particularly those concerning cell phone use and a possible link to brain cancer.

Davis has been wary of 5G technology since its inception. “Hundreds of scientists and experts in the field are calling for a global moratorium on 5G build-out and associated ‘small cell’ antennas until we have information on the public health and environmental impacts.”

How they voted

Stanford found the most sympathetic comrade in freshman councilman Jonathan Schechter.

“Good on ya, Jim,” Schecter said at the meeting Monday after a Stanford rant. “Nothing you said I would disagree with except the way you are going to vote. I will support this only because if we miss the opportunity to control all we can control now, we are going to lose that chance. Given the very difficult position local government is in put in by the feds here, I will support.”

Councilman Arne Jorgensen also didn’t like the spot his town was being put in.

“I am frustrated we are being put in a situation where we don’t have enough information, and consequences are not fully understood,” Jorgensen said.  He also suggested possible signage alerting the public to the fact they may be in an area designated as having RF contamination.

“I am trying to resist the unnecessary proliferation of this technology into all corners of our everyday lives and, now we learn, into the backcountry as well. No place is immune to this,” Stanford said, alluding to the recent news Grand Teton NP is hoping to install nine additional cell towers in the park to beef up its wireless coverage. “We’ve reached a point of diminishing return with this and I’m not sure .the benefits we’re gaining are commensurate with [potentially unknown] ripple effects that will happen throughout the ecosystem.”

“You’re living in the wrong time,” councilwoman Hailey Morton Levinson joked. “While I hear where you are coming from, Jim, and appreciate your ability to have a protest vote against this, I will vote in favor. Because if we all voted no in protest we would be setting ourselves up to not be as fully protected as we could be. And that’s what we are doing with these standards.”

Mayor Pete Muldoon called the resolution a set of reasonable standards. He added, “I need to have a really good reason to say no outside of the science, which I don’t know and is not what is being asked here. Getting involved with the feds and regulation…we are not going to do that as a town council. It’s not how I want to spend my time on the council.”

Council passed the resolution, ‘Wireless Telecommunication Facility Design Standards’ by a 4-1 vote with Stanford opposed.

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