Small Cell Protesters Halt Construction Progress in California


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On August 3, the Berkeley’s Public Works Department published its list of scheduled projects and included were two AT&T small cells, which have been slated for construction for months. The project has been delayed by a small group of anti-wireless protesters called Wired, reported Berkeleyside, who believe small cells will cause cancer.

Since the construction of the small cells is public knowledge, the dedicated group of residents picket each site and obstruct poles to block access, making it difficult for workers to do their jobs. Although construction workers get frustrated and police have been called on occasion, “workers have never pushed through the protesters to complete their job,” said Wired member Elizabeth Starr. “They pack up and leave.” Starr commented regarding one site, “We’ve been protecting this pole for six months. We don’t want the radiation here; it’s so harmful.”

Megan Daly, AT&T lead public relations manager, responded to Berkeleyside via email regarding the two sites. “We are installing two new small cell sites in the City of Berkeley to enhance service for our customers, including first responders. For each of these sites, we received the necessary permits and went through the City’s approval process,” Daly wrote.

Members of Wired and others opposed to the small cells believe that, in addition to radiation causing health issues, the infrastructure will be noisy, block views, and lower property values. Opponents cite studies done by the EMF Safety Network, which link electromagnetic fields and wireless radiation to health problems, reported Berkeleyside. Conversely, government and telecommunications organizations say these views are not backed by science. 

The city recently updated its telecommunications ordinance regarding construction in the public-rights-of way to coincide with the FCC’s standards. According to Berkeleyside, the updates include “requiring annual proof of the necessity for coverage, setting undergrounding as a priority if possible (except for antennas), stating that the ordinance provides no authority for facial recognition or surveillance technology, requiring noise testing on-site rather than relying on manufacturer’s written guarantees” and more.

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