5G Heads to Idaho, Causing Dissension Among Highway Commissioners

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Idaho highway district officials last week failed to achieve a majority vote to approve a new ordinance designed to set standards for the placement of 5G small cell antennas. Voting by teleconference, the five-person commission of the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) was split 3 – 2, missing majority approval by one vote.

District general counsel Stephen Price said the district has a legal obligation to allow small cells in the public right-of-way, reported The Idaho Statesman.

“That’s kind of the end of the story,” Price said, although he said his office was monitoring several federal bills that may make rules more or less restrictive. “We’re a public agency, we have to follow the law. And whether we agree with it or not, philosophically or politically, that’s irrelevant.”

Commissioners Rebecca Arnold and Jim Hansen, however, voted against the ordinance citing the need for public participation. Arnold said she wouldn’t vote in favor of the ordinance until the commission was able to have a hearing that “allows the public to participate in the manner that works for them. Not everybody has access to Zoom, and frankly, it’s a less-than-perfect process, to be kind,” Arnold said.

Sixteen residents testified remotely last week and cited concerns about 5G radiation and health impact as reasons to vote against the approval of the ordinance. 

According to The Statesman, Verizon has been working with Ada County and Boise officials for nearly two years to allow 5G infrastructure. Eighty-one small cell applications are currently in queue and county officials anticipate as many as 2,000 more in the coming months. 

Although it’s unclear if ACHD will seek future voting on the ordinance, they reportedly will still attempt to get companies to go to cities to approve locations. Price said, “It’s uncertain at this time whether or not we’re allowed to.”

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