The Santa Barbara City Council is pushing back on an effort by Verizon to install 5G wireless technology.
The council voted 4-3 to take more time to study the potential health impacts of the technology. City Attorney Ariel Calonne will provide a memo to the council within 90 days. Councilmembers Michael Jordan, Eric Friedman and Cathy Murillo voted to move forward with the contract now.
Some scientists believe that 5G technology, which uses electromagnetic radiation, can cause cancer or other health effects. The technology allows more devices to have access to the internet, along with faster download speeds. Others dispute whether there are health effects, but a 2018 U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources report showed that male rats exposed to high doses of radio frequency radiation developed a cancerous tumor.
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Dozens of people packed Santa Barbara City Hall on Tuesday to protest 5G technology. The City Council was set to approve a contract with Verizon wireless to install small cell facilities on city street lights for a period of 20 years. The Federal Communications Commission allows the technology, but cities are allowed to regulate their location and frequency.
If the city does not approve the contract, Verizon would be free to submit a proposal for new towers in the city. Rather than allow new towers, the city is considering allowing shrouded antennae on existing city equipment.
“I don’t feel comfortable making a decision right now,” Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez said. “We need to take more time to definitely talk to other people who can help us direct our concerns.”
Architectural historian Alexandra Cole said putting 5G technology downtown would hurt locals and tourists.
“The harmful effects of 5G technology are already known,” Cole said. “If you allow such towers to go in, for example, on the State Street street lamps, what is that going to do in terms of the health of your tourists? If you put those toxic antennae on the street lamps on State Street, how is that going to affect the health of our local workers? Your constituents are counting on you as a council to protect our health.”