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Homeowners speak up about 5G infrastructure as state senator files legislation giving residents more say

Sen. JD Ford announced he's filing bill this week
A 5G structure sits outside of Katy Schluge's home in the Meridian Kessler neighborhood.
Posted at 3:49 PM, Dec 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-28 18:32:34-05

INDIANAPOLIS-- A state senator is filing legislation this week aimed at giving homeowners more say in where 5G structures are placed in their neighborhoods.

It’s an issue WRTV Investigates has been covering for more than a year—homeowners who say they were blindsided when the infrastructure came to their neighborhoods and yards with little to no warning.

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People who live in North Willow Farms on the northwest side of Indianapolis love the trees and green spaces in their neighborhood, but many are not loving the six 5G structures that have already been constructed.

North Willow Farms has nearly 400 homes full of concerned residents who are worried about the nine additional 5G structures planned for their neighborhood.

"It does seem excessive especially when you consider there are 2 or 3 other carriers that are going to want to put in their infrastructure,” said Eric White, president of the North Willow Farms HOA.

We first told you about neighbor concerns in North Willow Farms back in May, and since then homeowners took their worries to state lawmakers including State Senator J.D. Ford.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is a people issue,” said Ford. “This is what we continually hear from our constituents, so to not do anything about this in the next session would be a derelict of our duties. "

Ford invited North Willow Farms homeowners to attend a Monday news conference in which he announced the filing of his 5G bill.

"I'm deeply concerned how easy it was for Verizon, a for profit entity, with no government regulation to use Indy as a test market for 5G and operate without any oversight whatsoever," said Ashley Lopez, a homeowner in North Willow Farms.

If passed, Ford’s bill will give homeowners more say as to where 5G structures are placed and improve the notification process to homeowners.

Katy Schluge lives in Meridian Kessler and says she didn’t find out about the 5G pole until it was placed several feet into her yard.

"We were given zero prior notice that this would be happening,” said Schluge. “It’s 17 feet from my youngest child's bed and in the middle of our yard."

These 5G structures are going up in part because Senate Bill 213 passed the legislature in 2017 and authorized a massive rollout of small cell wireless structures all over the state.

More homeowners are concerned about the impact on property values and potential health impacts.

"I worry that the electromagnetic field the towers emit will become like the radon of yesteryear,” said Schluge. “Something people lived with and didn't know it affected their health."

WRTV Investigates contacted CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, on Monday and we are still waiting to hear back.

According to their website, “Typical exposure to 5G devices-such as small cells attached to phone poles or the sides of buildings-is far below the permissible levels and comparable to Bluetooth devices and baby monitors."

CTIA’s website also says building America’s 5G network will result in $500 billion in economic growth and 3 million new jobs over the next five years.

WRTV also contacted Verizon for a statement on Monday, and we have not heard back.

The wireless provider previously told WRTV that 5G structures improve network capacity.

“For several years we have been using small cells in cities across the country to add needed network capacity as cellular usage grows,” said David Weissman, communications manager at Verizon Consumer Group, in an email to WRTV. “There is more information on our Central Indiana projects here.“

“Verizon Wireless has already started to install small cells in Central Indiana and will be over the next few years," the website reads. "Traffic and parking disruptions will be minimal, as work will be completed in phases to minimize local impacts.”

The Verizon website also addresses potential safety concerns:

"Are small cells safe?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in consultation with multiple federal agencies, sets federal government safety standards regarding small cells. Those standards have wide safety margins and are designed to protect everyone, including children, and were established after close examination of research that scientists in the US and around the world conducted for decades. The research continues to this day, and agencies continue to monitor it. Based on this research, federal agencies have concluded that equipment that complies with the FCC’s safety standards poses no known health risks. Advisers to the World Health Organization have specifically concluded that the same goes for 5G equipment. In fact, the RF safety standards adopted by the FCC are even more conservative than the levels adopted by some international standards bodies."

Senator JD Ford’s bill will likely be assigned to the Senate Utilities Committee which is chaired by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford.

“We hope it gets a hearing,” said Ford.

Homeowners aren’t too hopeful about the 5G poles already constructed, but they’re hoping to have more input as to where thousands of other 5G structures go in our community.

“Anything is better than what exists now for Indiana residents,” said homeowner Katy Schluge.

Neighbors created a website, www.hoosiersconnected.org, to keep people up to date on the 5G issue.

In Indianapolis, a list of right-of-way permits applied for/issued for small cell towers can be found by going to www.indy.gov/activity/small-cell-facilities [indy.gov].

Marion County residents can then go to the Citizens Access Portal [accela9ca.indy.gov] and type in the permit number to find out more information, including contact information for the applicant.

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