I’ve recently begun receiving form emails from residents demanding that the Council take steps to protect San Carlos from the alleged harmful effects of 5G cell phone transmitters. I thought it would be helpful to post a publicly-available response to those emails so that everyone would get the same information from me, and so that it would be available online.
There’s a legal doctrine known as “pre-emption” whereby higher levels of government can define the law and also forbid or limit what lower levels of government can do in that area. This derives from the fact that while San Carlos has a local government, that government is not sovereign (i.e., fully in control of its own destiny), and must abide by the rules laid out by the California and Federal governments.
In the case of cell phone technology, the Federal government has pre-empted all control over how and when transmitters can be placed, except for purely aesthetic issues. We can require that a transmitter blend into its environment, but we have no control over a cell phone carrier’s decision as to where they choose to place the transmitter.
The cell phone company has to honor private property rights, of course, so they can’t just install transmitters anywhere – they have to own, or rent access to, the property. But that’s pretty easy for them to do. For example, they already have the right to access public property to install telephone poles, so they can put transmitters on top of any telephone pole they choose.
If you wish to pursue concerns about 5G technology and transmitters I recommend you contact Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s office. She is our Federal Congressional representative. You could also contact Senator Diane Feinstein’s and Senator Kamala Harris’ offices, as they are our Federal Senators.
For what it’s worth, nothing I’ve read from credible sources leads me to believe the purported risks are real. Regardless, people are free to demand action by their government. It’s just that in this particular case the only real effective target for those demands is the Federal government.
It’s also worth noting that the form emails contain language that appears to assert individual Council members might be held liable, financially or otherwise, for any adverse effects resulting from the deployment of 5G transmitters. To the best of my knowledge, this is not so: the law provides a broad “safe harbor” for elected officials making good faith decisions on behalf of their community, and in compliance with the law.