Rochester to host 5G informational town hall meeting

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 29, 2019

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ROCHESTER — Those who want to learn more about 5G technology and what it means for Rochester residents are invited to attend a 5G informational town hall meeting hosted by the city of Rochester at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Rochester Community House.

“We’ve had some residents concerned about the technology and the health effects and where these are in the city,” said Jane Dixon, the public relations specialist for the city of Rochester. So city officials wanted to host this event “just to be able to get proactive information out to our residents,” she said.

Dixon said 5G is a new generation of cellular technology that promises to greatly enhance the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. The 5G technology relies on smaller towers placed closer together, and high-frequency waves that support faster wireless speeds. Antennas to facilitate 5G, or fifth-generation cellular technology, are smaller than those in current use and are able to be installed on smaller sites. They are referred to as micro or small-cell wireless facilities.

“They are small-cell towers that are put on electric poles that are in the public right of way,” Dixon said.

 Some people believe that the technology poses health risks, including cancer, and has not been properly studied.

New laws have been put in place that city officials say strip away nearly all of municipalities’ rights to regulate and control the installation of new small-cell wireless devices within the city’s rights of way.

Michigan Public Act 365 — approved by legislators in late 2018 and which took effect March 12 — is known as the “small wireless communications facilities deployment act.” The new state law allows wireless communications providers to construct their own smaller poles in state, county and city rights of way and to attach to existing poles and structures in public rights of way without express permission from the municipalities, the state or the county.

“Locally, we don’t have a lot of rights, in terms of governing them, but we would like to be able to give people information on what they are, how they work, what the governing ability is at the local, state and federal level,” Dixon said.

Under the new law, providers must pay cities, states or counties $20 per year for attaching micro wireless facilities to existing poles and $125 per year to construct a new pole.

At press time, Dixon said there are currently 15 5G boxes located in the city of Rochester.

“Verizon and AT&T currently have technology to use them, but they haven’t deployed them yet, even though they are installed. They’re still in the process of rolling out the technology,” she said.

Rochester Mayor Rob Ray said the adaptation of 5G technology has taken some unprecedented steps around the country and especially in Michigan.

“Local municipalities and residents have understandably voiced a number of questions, and it is for that reason I requested that a town hall be scheduled. Anyone is welcome to attend this forum to learn more about what 5G technology is, how it is being implemented and to pose questions to our panelists,” he said in an email.

Dixon said the informational town hall will be an open forum featuring a representative from the Oakland University physics department, an attorney from ProTec, as well as federal, state and local representatives.

“We originally were going to have representatives from Verizon and AT&T, but they decided not to have anyone on our panel,” Dixon said.

For more information, call the city of Rochester at (248) 733-3700 or visit rochestermi.org/523/5G-Small-Cell.

Staff Writer Terry Oparka contributed to this report.

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