Major U.S. phone companies are rolling out 5G — or fifth generation technology — throughout the country. 5G uses more transmitters and higher frequency waves than 4G to deliver faster wireless speeds. A group of citizens in Blaine County is asking elected officials there to prohibit the deployment of 5G in the area.
The residents organized a petition and a protest, and are pushing for a moratorium on 5G. They are particularly concerned about "dangerously high levels of microwave radiation," according to a webpage dedicated to the group's cause.
The World Health Organization has stated emissions from cell phones are "possibly carcinogenic," but the organization also said such adverse health effects are not definitive. And there’s little research showing 5G technology will present any more health risks than existing networks.
Still, following months of citizen activism, Ketchum decided to hold a discussion on 5G during this week’s council meeting. Councilmembers like Jim Slanetz were sympathetic to the community’s concerns.
“From a public safety perspective, I think it’s something we should totally try to fight," Slanetz said.
But a letter written by the city attorney and read aloud by Mayor Neil Bradshaw said a ruling by the Federal Communications Commission limits local action on 5G deployment.
“More drastic measures, such as a moratorium on 5G, could subject the city to very high legal risk and costs, with a successful outcome of the city unlikely,” the letter stated.
The federal ruling has not stopped a few cities like Mill Valley, Calif., from passing restrictions on the technology and several more from suing the FCC over the order, which limits fees they can charge companies that install the infrastructure. That lawsuit is supposed to go before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this month.
For now, Ketchum's city council decided to move forward with research and discussions on how the city can manage 5G if it comes to the area.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio