Vital Policy – Jefferson County and City of Farragut Make Resolutions Expressing Concerns Over 5G Small Cell Installations, State Legislation Pending

David Seal

What do the governments of Farragut and Jefferson County, Tennessee have in common, two seemingly unlike jurisdictions? In addition to the typical tax and public service issues that all municipalities grapple with, that would be the safety and property rights concerns of 5G small cell support structure installations in public rights of way, as well as displeasure with the federal and state mandates that force local governments to yield their public rights of way to private telecommunications businesses with little recourse or ability to regulate as they see fit.

Both Farragut and Jefferson County, Tennessee made resolutions asking state lawmakers to intervene on behalf of property owners and citizens whose homes, schools, and daycare centers potentially lie near microwave emitting cell structures. Research indicates that small cell support structures negatively impact property values by 20 percent and hamper the resale of homes, aesthetics and fear of microwave radiation being the primary reasons. Rights of way typically extend from roads into residential yards by several feet, in some cases facilitating the installation of small cell support structures within 50 feet homes, daycare centers and schools.

Concerned activists point to the fact that no meaningful scientific research has been conducted by the FCC or the telecommunications industry on the safety of radio frequency radiation since 1996, and that no safety research has been commissioned on 5G installations. In addition to the poor aesthetics and concern of radiation, some small cell structures are designed with cooling fans that emit objectional noise.

Bills filed in the Tennessee House and Senate aim to restore some of the local control over the installation of small cell support structures, namely giving municipalities more time to consider applications, creating minimum distances between small cell structures and homes, and providing an opt out provision for locations that are already serviced by high-speed internet providers.

We learned a few months ago that ugly radiation emitting cell structures were being installed in multiple neighborhoods in Farragut. Even more shocking was the reaction of our city government, informing citizens that local governments had lost control over their own rights of way because of Public Chapter 819, enacted by the Tennessee Legislature in 2018, an act designed by the telecom lobbyists that wanted our front yards for the installation of 40-foot poles.” Laura Jo Squires, Citizen of Farragut, Tennessee

The proposed bills, SB 857, by Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) and HB 1397 by Representative Iris Rudder (R-Winchester), co-sponsored by Representative Justin Lafferty (R-Knoxville) are currently assigned to the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee and the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.

Source: David Seal is a retired Jefferson County educator, as well as a recognized artist and local businessman. He has also served Jefferson County as a County Commissioner and is a lobbyist for the people on issues such as eminent domain, property rights, education, and broadband accessibility on the state level.