The Coastal Post - October, 1997

Feds Want To Snatch Local Antenna Controls

By Louise Harker

Did you think that the recent influx of personal communication services antennas that have invaded Marin in the past few months was simply an inevitable step forward for the wireless telecommunications revolution? Due to the lack of a significant public outcry, over 2,300 new antennas have recently been approved in Marin, and 2,200 of these were authorized by the Marin County Streetlight Joint Powers Authority without any public process or input.

In the past six months, in an assertive attempt to stop new antenna applications from being approved, a handful of concerned community members, local electromagnetic experts and members of the Marin Health Council have brought forth, to city and county officials, extensive scientific documentation as to the adverse health and environmental concerns related to chronic exposure to the low-level, non-ionizing radiation emitted by these antenna facilities.

They also presented professional opinions as to the potential for property devaluation near these facilities and expressed great concern over the impact the wireless revolution is having on the unique scenic beauty that makes Marin such a desirable place to live. Various officials have expressed their mutual concerns, but feel constrained by the legal interpretations of the FCC Telecommunications Act of 1996, which states that officials cannot deny antenna installations because of environmental concerns. Hence they have approved every proposed antenna that has come before them.

Additionally, not one of these facilities has been required to provide an Environmental Impact Report, though community members presented evidence that these facilities clearly violate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

If the FCC, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the Association for Maximum Service Television have their way, by January, we, the public, and our state and local governments will have lost all control over land use and zoning decisions regarding future antenna sitings.

On August 19, 1997, the FCC released a news bulletin issuing stating it would adopt an aggressive construction schedule for DTV transmitting facilities. "Because of the critical importance of the swift implementation of DTV services and the necessity of an expedited construction schedule, the Commission seeks to determine whether and if so, in what circumstances, it should exercise its authority to preempt state and local zoning and land-use laws and ordinances."

If you look at the history and future of this issue, it is obvious that the "critical importance" is to the vested interest of the telecommunications industry, not the public. First came cellular on our mountaintops, then PCS on our rooftops, now DTV. What next? Extensive satellite transceivers in the agricultural belt?

What local experts are most concerned about is the cumulative biological load to living beings from the multi-layered technological assault being waged by the telecommunications revolution. No one really knows what the actual exposure levels are. The Marin Health Council passed a resolution in July, 1997, and presented it to the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, requesting a complete and comprehensive mapping of all existing antenna facilities in Marin. To date, no such mapping endeavor is in the works. One Health Council member equated approval of additional antenna sites without this information to experimenting on humans without FDA approval, approved protocol, or consent of those being experimented on.

In the FCC's Notice of Proposed Rule-Making, some dangerous language exists. A time constraint is proposed for decisions on antenna applications that would seriously limit investigation of the potential impact of these sitings by local or state decision-making bodies. And the FCC would have final decision-making power. Being that the FCC has shown itself as favoring industry over public concerns, giving them such authority doesn't appear to be a good idea. "We have the power to preempt where state or local law, among other things, stand as an obstacle."

We only have a short time in which to impact the decisions that are already in process. In the interest of those who stand to make the greatest profit, technology is being imposed upon us whether we like it or not. The FCC is seeking comments on preemption of certain local restrictions on the placement and construction of broadcast transmission facilities. Comments are due October 30. The FCC is not actually seeking public comment, they are seeking comment from industry as to what the obstacles are that telecommunications companies have encountered in their application process.

Most individuals, as well as elected officials, believe that the FCC regulates and monitors emissions from antenna facilities. In reality, the FCC only licenses. Its regulation of facilities is done by setting standards and making rules, not by actual site monitoring for compliance with those standards and rules.

Where to get documents

Phone: 202-418-0500

Fax: 202-418-2830


Address: Federal Communications Commission, 1919-M St., NW, Washington DC 20554.

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