The city of Napa will support a Congressional bill seeking to block federal restrictions on local governments’ ability to decide where small cellular transmitters can and cannot be installed.
A City Council vote on Tuesday authorized Mayor Jill Techel to sign a letter supporting House Resolution 530, which calls for overturning regulations limiting the fees cities can charge telecommunications firms to install small-cell sites and caps the length of the permitting process. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, introduced the bill in January.
A policy enacted by the Federal Communications Commission in September 2018 sets a “shot clock” of 90 days during which a local government must approve or deny a permit for a small cell, which is a fraction the size of full-power transmitters and is often mounted to utility poles. For companies upgrading an existing transmitter for faster fifth-generation wireless service, the FCC’s time limit is 60 days.
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The FCC directive also limits local permit fees to the amount that covers the cost of processing applications and on-site inspection.
Napa’s decision follows resistance by some residents to Verizon Wireless’ planned deployment of small-cell units on various city streets, using power poles, stoplights and other city-owned fixtures as mounting points. Foes have alleged the transmitters increase cancer risk for residents, as well as harming home resale values and aesthetics.
Published research on the effects of wireless signals on health has reached conflicting conclusions. A 2011 research paper from the World Health Organization declared electromagnetic fields a “possible” carcinogen, but the American Cancer Society has countered that radio frequency waves from cell antennas are at a lower power than ultraviolet light and gamma rays and therefore cannot break the bonds in DNA molecules.