By Dianne Feinstein

Originally published in The Mercury News

As the United States looks forward to advancements in wireless communications – the so-called 5G revolution, which will bring improved broadband speed and reliability – we often emphasize the health, safety and economic benefits.

But one aspect of 5G we can’t ignore is how the potentially intrusive physical deployment of internet infrastructure will affect our cities.

If you look above our streets, you’ll see telephone poles across the country loaded down with wires, transformers, fuses, insulation and more. The 5G roll-out will only add to that equipment, and bring with it added safety risks to our communities.

Local communities must also play a central role in deciding how and where 5G providers install their gear.

San Jose, for instance, charges utility companies a fee to install their equipment then uses the proceeds to expand internet access in underserved areas. This program would connect 50,000 households in the next 10 years. New FCC rules, however, would put that plan in jeopardy.

FCC rules

In January, a pair of FCC rules took effect that allow telecom providers to install heavy equipment with little or no say from local jurisdictions.

These rules, ostensibly intended to fast-track the 5G rollout, preempt state and municipal regulations over how wireless companies may attach 5G transmission devices to light poles, traffic lights and utility poles.

They also dictate how much local governments can charge wireless companies to review proposed 5G equipment deployment and the rent paid for the privilege of using public infrastructure.

The new 5G network will need new antennas to work, adding to the network of antennas our current cell technology already uses. This means we’re well on our way to a dangerous situation in which cities are clogged with 5G antennas on public infrastructure, all with little input from cities themselves.