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Senator's bill would give homeowners more say in where 5G structures are placed

Sen. JD Ford said 5G a top constituent concern
Posted at 1:54 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 19:24:13-05

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana state senator is drafting legislation aimed at giving homeowners more power when it comes to the placement of 5G structures in their neighborhoods.

Sen. JD Ford (D- Indianapolis) is making the push following numerous complaints from his constituents and numerous stories from WRTV Investigates.

Homeowners are not only concerned about the aesthetics and potential health impact of 5G towers, but they’re also displeased that no one asked for their input.

North Willow Farms on the north side of Indianapolis is just one of many central Indiana neighborhoods seeing the impact of 5G.

"We’ve now got six towers in North Willow Farms, and Verizon had requested a variance from the city to place four more,” said Eric White, president of the North Willow Farms Home Owners Association. “The city denied that variance request. At this point, we are in a stale mate."

Homeowners, homeowners’ associations, and even cities are very limited in what they can do when it comes to whether a 5G tower is constructed and where it is placed.

"We're very frustrated because we really didn't have any opportunity to play a role in the decision about that,” White said. “Our voice was not heard at all on those."

This is happening in part because Senate Bill 213 passed the state legislature in 2017 and authorized a massive rollout of small cell wireless structures all over the state.

Ford says the legislature needs to reexamine that legislation.

"Give some power back to the residents,” Ford said. “They feel powerless at this point. My bill I'll be filing in January will give homeowner associations, and even residents to have more say."

Ford’s legislation would also improve the notification process.

He’s heard from some homeowners who didn’t find out 5G is coming to their neighborhood until their own yard is being ripped up.

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The senator also wants to add more markings to the structures themselves so people know they’re for 5G technology.

Small cells often blend into a city’s landscape using existing infrastructure like utility poles or street lights, or new poles in the public right-of-way, according to Verizon’s website.

Many of them have stickers, but they’re often high up on the 5G structure.

"You can't even read that," Ford said. "I, like the rest of customers, like to have fast speeds. All we are asking for is a little bit more say in this process. That easily can be achieved."

The bill will likely be assigned to the Senate Utilities Committee which is chaired by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford.

WRTV reached out to CTIA, which represents the wireless industry and we are still waiting on a response.

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“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."