Think About It: 5G whiz!?

A couple of weeks ago, we took our car to Lynnwood for its well-car checkup and big-mile maintenance. In fact, it was so big the car had to stay overnight, which meant we needed a loaner car.

The loaner was the modern car of today and most technology was new to us since our car was older by 14 years. I was the driver and required to listen to an officious orientation to the workings of the car.

The biggest difference was that it was a key-less car and required less work on my part except to remember to keep the key on my person. Once I started the car, it came to know me so the next time it positioned the seat without my asking so I could reach the pedals.

The car took care of important things like setting the emergency brake when I stopped the car and alerting me if I was too close to something or a door was open.

I adapted quickly, so quickly that when we retrieved our own car from its super-expensive maintenance service, I forgot to set the emergency brake when we left the car during the ferry ride.

The experience gave me a clearer vision of a future in which I would become an unimportant and unnecessary part of my own car’s operation. I felt sad to give up the close relationship between me and my cars that I built over years of long-term car ownership.

Unintended (read ignored in planning) consequences

The experience also led me to imagine what it meant to workers whose skills became irrelevant when technology replaced their jobs … and what it will mean in the future to those replaced by more advanced robotics such as those promised by 5G.

My exploration into 5G and the controversies surrounding its implementation was triggered. My research led to an unexpected twist, although I shouldn’t have been surprised.

I started by trying to find out just what 5G was and quickly learned just about all of it was over my head in terms of understanding the technology. The summaries were most helpful but, in full disclosure, I have no idea if the definitions or characterizations are accurate.

I am certain a reader will correct or clarify if this ordinary person gets it wrong. We need all our heads on this one.

5G apparently exponentially increases the speed and capacity of moving information to and from points. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai tells us that the advantages are “HD telemedicine, virtual reality, and more airways.”

We, in rural America can relate to telemedicine and easier, faster access.

It seems that 5G won’t work off humongous cell towers. 5G requires many tiny tower antennas closer to our homes and businesses. As I understand it, the tiny tower antennas send data riding along electromagnetic beams through walls and people to reach smart (read brilliant) phones and other devices.

Thousands of tiny tower antennas will be located on poles by homes, businesses and schools and will bounce beams off many newly placed satellites.

Several Clallam County residents recently protested the deployment of 5G to the CC Planning Commission on the grounds that radiation is harmful to humans and other life on this planet. Seemed reasonable to me that before installing a new more penetrating technology that a review of environmental impact should be completed.

That didn’t happen; in fact, it wasn’t considered. Rather the FCC has put 5G installation on a “fast track” to put our country ahead of others in the use of 5G. The FCC reasoned the race doesn’t allow the time for such review and issued an order to that effect in March 2018. The order specifically exempted 5G from the National Environmental Policy Act and national Historic Preservation Act.

Keeping with its “fast track” plan, the FCC issued rules requiring cities, towns and communities to approve the application to install 5G mini towers within 60 or 90 days of the time of the application, the days difference being whether street light poles exist or must be newly installed.

Observant community leaders ask what happened to a community’s ability to plan for citizen involvement and its responsibility to provide for public safety and health. The answer resides in the FCC parameters which as we already know don’t include health and environmental review, and apparently doesn’t include community self-governance.

Moreover, the punishment for not complying is to put the community at risk for being sued under the order that mandates 5G.

What’s good for business is good

Rather, the only goals of the FCC related to 5G installation is “pushing more spectrum into the marketplace, updating infrastructure policy and modernizing outdated regulations,” the last being decided by an advisory subcommittee made up of mostly industry representatives whose role is “removing state and local regulatory barriers.”

I noted that the membership of the 2017 broadband deployment advisory committee consisted of mostly industry businesses and associations with a few politicians and academics sprinkled in the mix. I couldn’t dredge up the current list except a headline announcing the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was appointed to the committee.

ALEC is known for lobbying against municipal broadband, net neutrality and other consumer protection measures. The 2019 committee does include some consumer advocates not included in the past but is said to continue to be dominated by industry representatives.

For good reason, the installation/implementation means billions of dollars going into corporations at all levels of the 5G network, including what we will pay to buy 5G compatible devices.

Those of us concerned about health and environment and those of us concerned about federal government forcing communities into compliance should be alarmed.

This is our government deciding our fates based on what’s good for business and profits; yet, another example of a federal agency showing no interest in the personal or economic well-being and security of the American people.

We must carefully assess any claim of job growth now and in the future presented as the carrot for the ordinary. Our job is to explore and ask questions.

We can ask the current administration and our elected leaders to detail the consequences of “fast track,” intended or otherwise. We can ask:

How soon before robots drive our cars, answer our phones, administer our tests and serve us meals in restaurants?

Isn’t some of that happening now?

Didn’t it happen in manufacturing and coal mining?

What use will human labor be to business?

Who will be the customers?

PS: China already dominating 5G and “Fast Track” may be going down the wrong track: Check out spectrum at

Bertha Cooper spent her career years as a health care organization and program administrator and consultant and is a featured columnist in Sequim Gazette. Cooper has lived in Sequim with her husband for nearly 20 years. Reach her at