Boston “Teas” Up Request for FCC to Reevaluate RF Standards


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The City of Boston recently questioned the safety of 5G small cells as it relates to human exposure to RF electromagnetic fields with the FCC. In a document submitted to the agency on June 17, the city wrote it “encourages the Commission to both complete the work it outlines in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued December 4, 2019, and to call on the Commission to reexamine and refresh its now 24-year-old RF emissions standards.”

Home to 690,000 people, Boston “strives to ensure the City and all its residents and visitors have competitive, affordable, and robust access to modern communications services.” However, Boston also believes the RF rules and standards have not kept pace with the increased number of devices and the proximity to humans.

Officials noted that “Boston is one of the country’s most densely populated cities with an abundance of streetscapes with narrow sidewalks and little or no dwelling setbacks.” This means that infrastructure is “often sited within 20 feet or less of living space.” Due to the proximity to residents, Boston is asking the FCC to “examine the potential impact on health of low-level multiple exposures.”

The letter goes on: “Boston believes that the concerns of the public are real and that the Commission has done a disservice to itself, local government, consumers, and even the wireless industry in failing to understand and respond to the broadly shared mistrust of the safety of RF emissions.” The letter also argues that the public does not believe the RF standards set by the FCC more than twenty-four years ago — during 1G and 2G deployment — are “safe nor based on science.” The initial rules were set based on hand-held devices, not on street-level deployment of small cells.

“A once every decade review of the standards does not, in Boston’s opinion, meet the Commission’s obligations to evaluate the effects of our actions on the quality of the human environment, including human exposure to RF energy, mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969,” according to the letter.

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