Welcome to Tangent! For the latest Tangent updates and news, click here.

The Current Landscape of 5G Opposition and How to Face It

Even in its infancy, the concept of 5G frequencies worried some outlying groups concerned about radiation. And despite the vast data proving its safety and the science behind radio frequencies, the 5G-fear has not dissipated (if you want a succinct article regarding the science, here’s a great one from WIRED). The opposition to 5G is largely based on unfounded conspiracy theories which have fueled various obstructions of wireless technology. You’ve likely read about the cell phone towers set on fire in the UK, the verbal and physical harassment of workers, and at least one incident of gunshots fired at cell tower workers. Government agencies, politicians and scientists have publicly denounced their unequivocally false claims, but many citizens remain wary of the new tech.

Across the nation, mixed feelings about 5G are being aired out at city council meetings as municipalities review 5G installation projects. Below are examples from Ithaca, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey and how each city has dealt with recent 5G resistance.

Members of the Ithaca community voiced their concerns about “possible negative health effects,” of the installation of Verizon 5G boxes set for completion by October of this year. After hearing from both sides the resolution passed 9-1, despite the public opposition, with the stipulation that the council approves 5G box designs before an agreement with Verizon is signed.

Meanwhile in Jersey City, a city council meeting unanimously halted an ordinance set to install and upgrade over 70 utility poles for the purpose of 5G. The sentiments were based in part on the possible health effects of the new technology and the council’s lack of notice on the ordinance. Council attendees also wanted assurance that when utility poles are installed/upgraded that the council should have a say in the pole designs, notably in historic areas to ensure compliance with historic preservation requirements.

In one example, the city council pushed through the opposition to approve, and in the other, 5G was temporarily paused to ease the public’s concern. The question left facing industry professionals and municipalities is, even when armed with reliable data validating the safety of 5G, how do you properly navigate those who are actively trying to stop its progress?

Unfortunately, there is no magic answer that will ease these outlying fears. Veteran surveyor Peter Wingate-Saul responded in an article for The Guardian explained that due to the alarming amount of misinformation, simply explaining the science may not help the situation. Instead, he suggests communicating with the public about 5G early on, because most of the alarm is based on feeling uninvolved in the process. This then fuels their fear and resistance against it. Wingate-Saul also advises paying attention to the designs of the 5G hardware as many are concerned about the obtrusive nature of industrial hardware.

This advice echoes the themes discussed in the city council examples above: the opposition in both cases was largely concerned with the aesthetic design and the late noticing of the installation proposal. Transparent communication with communities early-on and careful designs of 5G hardware that will comply with existing city ordinances may greatly ease the tension of those opposed to 5G. This approach is free and helps establish trusted relationships with communities. Fortunately, extremist 5G opposers make up a small minority and taking the aforementioned steps to increase trust and transparency may be all that is needed to help inform the opposers who are reluctant or “on the fence.”

The irony is not lost on us that the technology the conspiracy theorists are relying on to spread their agenda is exactly the kind of technology they’re trying to tear down. But we don’t choose who we innovate for; we innovate for all. Eventually, we’re confident that the “fear of change” regarding 5G will fade but in the meantime, we urge everyone working in the field to take extra caution. Remember to BUS: Be alert of onlookers, Use PPE and handle any items hanging on poles with care, and Stay calm and call authorities if harassment occurs.

Continue reading

Subscribe now.

Get a bi-monthly update with helpful guides and insights.