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5G fears: Homeowners worry about mini towers in street

Posted at 12:02 PM, Feb 08, 2019

Super fast 5G cell service is coming. But some people are hoping to slow down this high speed rollout.

That's because it will rely on thousands of new "mini" towers, perhaps even in your backyard or on the pole in front of your home.

Mysterious orange PVC pipes are popping up out of the ground in towns everywhere, stamped with the words "fiber optic." But this is not fiber optic internet service, and installers often tell curious homeowners they have no idea what it for. But the reality is that this means that 5G is coming soon.

Anna and Andrew Steele, a young couple who recently bought a home, said they don't like the idea of being the trial community for 5G.

"For me, I'd rather not be the guinea pig," Andrew Steele said.

"That would be terrible, Anna Steele said. "That would be horrible. Also, do we really even need it?"

We do need it, according the Verizon, AT&T, and the FCC, which recently passed sweeping rules allowing cellphone companies to install 5G towers with only minimal state and community approval.

5G is almost 100 times faster than 4G LTE service, and cell companies say it will be needed for high speed streaming video and increasing interconnectivity in the years to come.

Why thousands of mini towers are needed

But for 5G speeds to be so impressive, wireless companies need more towers, and a fiber line connecting towers, according to AT&T and Verizon. The wireless associations CITA estimates 800,000 mini towers will be need in the US in the next 20 years.

As a result, carriers are putting them up on telephone poles, on the sides of office buildings, even up in lampposts. But to keep them from being so unattractive, wireless companies are hiding them.

In Florida, they are camouflaging 5G towers in fake palm trees. In Arizona, they are building metal cactus trees to hide 5G towers. In Colorado and California, towers are being hidden inside phony evergreens.

Homeowner as Monique Maisenhalter said they worry that towers might end up right outside their bedroom window.

"Some say it will be every three to 10 houses," she said. She cited studies from environmental groups worldwide, claiming that cell tower radiation -- up close -- can possibly cause health issues.

"This is harmful, there is decades of research saying this is harmful," Maisenhalter said.

She is leading a petition drive asking for a stop to any 5G construction in her community until more is known. Almost 50 other residents had signed.

"Even if people don't think it will hurt them, it is enough to lower property values because many people are not sure," she said.

Among those signing the petition are longtime resident Keith Owen.

"None of us are having any trouble with our (4G) cell service, so why do we need 5G?" he said.

Owner is a mystery

One county engineer, Ted Hubbard, told us he is struggling to find out who is laying the fiber and what their plan might be.

"The ownership is a big question," Hubbard said. "And I have asked that. We are having a hard time finding out who actually owns it."

Hubbard said several small contractors have received permits to install the lines but won't tell the county who is behind the whole project. "Who's going to operate it?" Hubbard asked. "And who do we contact if there is an issue?'

Several of the poles, on closer inspection, have "Verizon" printed on them.

We asked Verizon if they are installing 5G in the area but received only a cryptic answer: Verizon spokesman Joon Choi said "the 5G cities we have announced so far are Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento." He would not elaborate on installation plans.

Will these mystery poles become 5G towers? Is Verizon already installing 5G throughout the country? No one will say.

Some homeowners, like Helen Booker feel the concerns are overblown.

"I don't mind because if it's going to help people get better reception, I think it would be very beneficial to have 5G," Booker said. And if you have poor cell service in your neighborhood, you might agree.

Others though, such as Andrew and Anna Steele, say they want more answers and the chance to have some input before 5G towers spring up all around their tree-lined streets.

"Isn't there some kind of say that we have?" she asked. "Do we get a chance to say, 'Hey, we don't want this?'"

She worries she may not.

As always, don't waste your money.


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