5G wireless technology comes with big promises, but city of Portland has big concerns

(KATU Photo)

The city of Portland is suing the Federal Communications Commission over what it considers to be a big land grab by the feds that will hamper how the city regulates its own infrastructure and could cost them millions of dollars.

These concerns come as wireless companies begin rolling out their 5G wireless technology. 5G, which stands for 'Fifth-Generation', comes with promises of significantly faster internet speeds.

To begin offering the 5G service to customers, wireless companies will need to begin installing new signal transmitters around Portland. Those companies will need to put those transmitters on city-owned poles around town.

Last year, the FCC limited how cities could regulate installation of those transmitters on city property, and it capped how much a city could charge wireless companies to use them.

"The federal government has made something of a land grab against local infrastructure, like telephone poles, where these wireless nodes will be connected," said Mayor Ted Wheeler.

He added, "The federal government is trying to take control, and we at City Council take a dim view of that."

Wheeler said in October these FCC rulings could cost Portland $9.5 million in lost franchise fees. The FCC capped the amount cities could charge companies to use its infrastructure for transmitters at $270 per year. Some cities are currently charging $3,000.

City commissioners are also concerned about the potential health impacts of a major 5G rollout. On Wednesday, they will consider asking the federal government to study the health impacts of 5G on humans and make that information publicly available.

"For 5G to roll out and be successful, the public has to have confidence that this tech is in the best interest of the public," Wheeler said.

Last year, more than 200 scientists from 40 countries appealed to the European Commission, asking them to hold off on implementing 5G until they could study the health impacts.

Also in 2018, the National Toxicology Program, published a report that found that radiation from 2G and 3G cellphones was linked to cancer in mice. Researchers noted that those findings did not apply to 4G or 5G technology.

"We are asking the federal government to please engage and use public health resources to study the long-term health impacts, or potential health impacts, of 5G," said Wheeler. "It may well be there are no long-term health impacts of rolling out 5G, but until the public has some degree of confidence that the science supports the rollout of this technology, there is always going to be that question circulating of whether or not this is healthy for the public."

During his news conference Monday, Mayor Ted Wheeler also said he supports the I-5 Rose Quarter project, but a local economist published a note in his blog that said it would be a mistake:

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