CA State Legislature About to Give Telecoms Immense Power

Adapted from an article by Tim Redmond, May 10, 2021 | Original 48 Hills Article here.


Proposed 2021 Bills would block most local control over placement of cell towers and antennas — and the Opposition has not been strong enough.

A pair of bills that would profoundly deregulate the placement of cell-phone towers and antennas— in essence giving the telecom companies complete control over where these facilities can go and overriding most local laws— are moving quickly through the state Legislature with almost no news media attention.

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The measures would give companies vast power to place antennas on any public light or utility poles anywhere in the state and the bills contain no effective considerations for preserving the quiet enjoyment of streets, protecting against noise and negative health consequences and delivering actual public safety.

The measures, nurse and health advocate Catherine Dodd told me,

“Will allow corporate Wireless Carriers and their agents to put wireless telecom facilities, (antennas and equipment) wherever they choose with little local control, or public input. That includes in front of homes — as close as 6 feet outside windows — and in parks or near schools.”

SB 556, by Sen. Bill Dodd (who represents a district that includes much of the North Bay), sailed through two committees with bipartisan support and only one No vote. It’s now headed to the Senate floor.

The measure is sponsored by Crown Castle, a firm which builds cell-phone towers for the Wireless Carriers. State Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, voted in favor.

A companion bill, AB 537, by Assemblymember Bill Quirk, who represents the Hayward and Fremont area, would require cities and counties to quickly approve applications for new cell-phone facilities. It passed the Assembly Communications & Conveyance and Local Government Committees without a single dissenting vote.

Assemblymember Phil Ting, who was appointed to serve on the Communications & Conveyance Committee for exactly one day, but didn’t actually attend or participate in the Hearing on April 28, 2021, but dutifully voted in favor of all of the bills at the very end of the hearing, as you can view here →

The impetus for the bill is ts to futher pad the already obscene Telecom profits. Wireless Carriers are telling legislators — without substantial evidence — that during COVID-19 lockdown, kids weren’t getting suficient Internet access for school and that SB.556 — and increased wireless signal from densified 4G/5G antennas, for that matter — would do something effective to solve this problem. Unfortunately, SB.556 does nothing of the kind.

Catherine Dodd, who worked in the Clinton Administration and for eight years ran San Francisco’s Health Service System, see the holes in these Telecom arguments.

In fact, she argues, the bill could undermine efforts at achieving municipal broadband efforts – which is an actual solution that can effective Close the Digital Divide and the Homework Gap via FTTP, which stands for:

  1. FTTP = Fiber Optic to the Premises
  2. FTTP = Freedom to the People

Catherine Dodd made some clear points (adpated):

  • SB 556 will NOT bridge the digital divide, it will give Wireless Carriers free reign to construct Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) of any ” G” on nearly any municipal light pole or traffic signal. The Wireless Carriers will just continue to charge higher and higher rates for wireless service because they are private companies, not public utilites which must charge only ‘just and reasonable’ rates.”
  • Alternatively, Municipal Broadband programs installed by State Public Telecom Utilities, such as AT&T-California, a Title II-regulated firm, can ensure that there is affordable and even subsidized access, to the internet.
  • California cities and counties need municipally operated Fiber Optic to the premises (FTTP) for Wired Broadband, which is FASTER, SAFER, MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT, MORE SECURE and MORE COST-EFFECTIVE than Wireless Broadband.

Original Text from the article:

SB 556 will NOT bridge the digital divide, it will put the corporate Telecom carriers in charge of regulating wireless telecom facilities, (towers and antennas) and will give them access to every pole and signal light — so they can make money charging higher and higher rates for internet services. Telecom carriers need to be regulated. Municipalities can ensure that there is affordable and even subsidized access to the internet – if SB 556 passes that can’t happen

5G does not facilitate voice data or internet connectivity – it only increases download speeds for video (like gaming), it’s unreliable in bad weather, it’s not cyber secure, and it contributes to climate change because it requires electricity to many more antennas.

California cities and counties need WIRED municipally operated BroadBand to and into the buildings: FASTER, SAFER, ENERGY EFFICIENT and CYBER SECURE. SB 556 will prevent municipal broadband!

Catherine Dodd also made some less-than-clear points:

Catherine Dodd

Wire California

“SB.556 will put the corporate Telecom carriers in charge of regulating wireless telecom facilities Not exactly, Catherine.
“Municipalities can ensure that there is affordable and even subsidized access to the internet – if SB 556 passes that can’t happen Not exactly, Catherine.
5G does not facilitate voice data or internet connectivity.” Not exactly, Catherine.
“5G contributes to climate change [because] it requires electricity to many more antennas.” That is only half of the story.
“SB 556 will prevent municipal broadband!.” Not exactly, Catherine.

As far as I can tell from my research, not a single news outlet has covered this bill. So why is it going through the Legislature with no serious discussion or opposition from other Legislators?

Follow the money:

  • In the past two years, AT&T has spent $250,000 taking state legislators on a fancy golf vacation to Pebble Beach (called The Speaker’s Cup, Named after the Speaker of the Assembly, current Asm. Anthony Rendon.)
  • In 2019 and 2020 alone, state records show, the company has donated $275,000 to the California Republican Party and $755,000 to the California Democratic Party. Gavin Newsom’s campaign for governor got $20,000 in AT&T money. It’s hard to find a single state legislator who didn’t get money from AT&T.
  • Verizon gave $73,000 to the California Republican Party and $80,000 to the Democratic Party. Verizon also gave $10,00 to Newsom.
  • Many state legislators also got money from T-Mobile/Sprint.

“This is a tough battle,” Dodd told me. “They have so much power and influence.”

The League of California Cities opposes SB.556. So do many advocacy organizations:

Here’s who’s in favor of SB.556:

  • Bay Area Council,
  • California Apartment Association,
  • California Builders Alliance,
  • California Building Industry Association,
  • California Business Properties Association,
  • California Retailers Association,
  • California Wireless Association,
  • CTIA,
  • Greater Sacramento Economic Council,
  • Orange County Business Council,
  • Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange,
  • San Francisco Chamber of Commerce,
  • Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Verizon.

That’s pretty much a list of people who are on the wrong side of most issues. And nobody in the Democratic Party is standing up to them to protect public health and safety.

Here’s who’s against SB.556: