Local control of telecom equipment placement must be preserved

Senator Patrick Colbeck

Senator Patrick Colbeck

Rushing of SB 637 jeopardizes health

LANSING, Mich.State Sen. Patrick Colbeck spoke on Thursday against Senate Bill 637, legislation that would largely remove local governments from being able to determine where “small cell” telecommunications equipment would be placed.

Colbeck said local communities should have the ability to weigh in on where the devices are placed, and that it was inappropriate for the state to step in and deprive the ability of local governments and the people therein from having a safe haven from potentially harmful effects of wireless radiation.

“As we start to roll out new technology and the ‘internet of things,’ we are increasingly seeing an erosion of both property rights and local control,” said Colbeck, R-Canton. “When the smart meter rollout began, many local residents sought redress from their local elected bodies. While many local officials were in favor of a smart meter moratorium, they quickly discovered that the state had sole control in that area.

“Now that we are looking at where ‘small cell’ equipment will be placed, industry is again taking steps to ensure local government’s voice will be silenced. Considering estimates say one transmitter will be needed for every two to 10 homes, this will be a tremendous number of new transmitters being placed into our residential areas and near schools.”

Colbeck said his office has received many calls from Michigan residents who are concerned with a growing body of evidence that transmissions from new “small cell” transmitters can cause significant health concerns for many people, especially for young children and those in the womb.

State control of the placement of the new transmitters would allow for a fast and efficient rollout of the equipment, but the bill takes power away from people to weigh in on those placement decisions with their local officials and puts it into the hands of industry. Colbeck said that such a large-scale rollout calls for methodical and thoughtful analysis.

“Even the FCC has not fully studied all of the health effects of such widespread implementation of this new technology,” Colbeck said. “The telecom industry is indemnified against any liabilities for adverse health impacts if their emissions stay within FCC guidelines. We need to ensure that the FCC guidelines are defined at thresholds that protect against adverse health impacts. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that this is not currently the case.”

The legislation was voted out of the Senate and now heads to the House, where Colbeck said he would talk to his colleagues to make sure the bill received further vetting, especially on health-related issues. Colbeck noted California just recently vetoed a similar law.

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