Below is a list of the most common questions which both individuals and zoning boards often have about Cell Towers. To get answers, simply click on the links. For studies and information regarding the potential adverse health effects caused by Cell Towers, you can also go to the Links section of this website.
[+] What is the Telecommunications Act of 1996?
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is a law which stripped all States and local governments of their power to consider the potential adverse health impacts of RF radiation from Cell Towers and Cell Antennas, when a wireless company files any type of zoning application seeking to install them.
As hand-crafted by those lobbying for the wireless industry, Section 704 of the Act provides:
"No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission's regulations concerning such emissions."
The reference to "the Commission's regulations" refers to the FCC, and denotes that, local governments can't even discuss, much less consider, adverse health impacts, so as long as the Cell Towers/Cell Antennas are compliant with FCC regulations.
Of course, those same proponents of the wireless industry also succeeded in making sure that such FCC regulations for Cell Towers and Cell Antennas, are virtually non-existant.
By way of example, the majority of Cell Towers in residential areas generally range from 100 to 170 feet in height, and the FCC exempts from registration requirements all towers under 200 feet. This means that the FCC doesn't even know where the Cell Towers are, much less what levels of RF radiation they are emitting.
Similarly lacking in protection, are the FCC's safety limitations for the public's exposure to RF radiation from Cell Towers and Cell Antennas.
Allegedly influenced by the wireless industry, the FCC proceeded to deem as "safe", levels of RF radiation which are 10 to 5,000 times higher than the maximum levels deemed as safe by most other countries.
To learn about same, and about what the FCC is "really doing" in terms of "regulating" Cell Towers and Cell Antennas, go to the Government Related Info & Links section of this website.
[+] Do property owners have a right to oppose the approval of Cell Tower applications?
Absolutely. Aside from your rights, under state law, to be heard at public hearings, you also have a right to submit opposition to Cell Tower applications, under the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees your right to petition government for the redress of grievances.
Under this guarantee, you have a U.S. Constitutional right to be heard before town boards, planning boards and zoning boards, and to make submissions to oppose any Cell Tower application pending before any such local boards.
In exercising such state and federal rights, you have the right to fight against sustaining a loss to the value of your property as a result of the installation of a Cell Tower in close proximity to your property.
You can exercise these rights to protect yourself, your family, friends and neighbors against the dangers of Cell Tower collapse, and to fight against having the installation of a Cell Tower which would adversely affect the character or aesthetics of your neighborhood.
You have the right to assert all factual grounds upon which a respective application should be denied, and all legal grounds upon which a respective Cell Tower application should be denied, or in some cases, must be denied as a matter of law.
To exercise such rights, of course, you will need to recognize both the factual and legal grounds upon which to challenge a Cell Tower application, and the manner in which to assert such challenges.
Where such rights have been exercised effectively, individuals and civic associations have defeated carrier's efforts to install one or more Cell Towers near their respective homes or businesses.
They have even forced a carrier to tear down a Cell Tower, despite the fact that construction of the Tower was already 75% complete, with its foundation installed to completion, and the first 50 feet of the 100 foot tower already having been installed.
[+] Can local Zoning Boards legally deny applications to install Cell Towers?
Of course. There is a moderately wide range of legally valid basis upon which a local zoning board, planning board or town board may deny, and in fact, may be legally compelled to deny, an application for the installation of a Cell Tower.
What is critical to their decision is that:
- (a) they cannot base a denial upon the potential adverse health impact of the RF emissions from the Cell Tower, because that would run afoul of the Telecommunications Act of 1996,
- (b) the denial of such an application must be based upon a legally recognizable basis, and
- (c) they must create a record which clearly sets forth that the denial was premised upon the legally recognizable basis, and the evidenciary grounds which lead them to reach their decision.
If a board fails to meet any of the above three criteria when it denies a wireless company's Cell Tower application, the Town should recognize the possibility of being sued in federal court by the respective wireless company, in a lawsuit within which the wireless company will seek to obtain a federal Court order directing the Town to permit the Cell Tower to be installed.
[See also What is the shot clock? below for further details]
[+] What is the shot clock?
The "shot clock" is the newest weapon available to the wireless companies, courtesy of the FCC.
The FCC now requires all local zoning authorities to decide Cell Tower applications within 150 days for new towers, and 90 days for co-location.
The FCC imposed this requirement on both the States and all local governments under FCC ruling 09-99, issued on November 18, 2009.
In addition to imposing this new time constraint, the FCC further ruled that wireless companies can sue local governments in court if they fail to render a decision within the deadlines which the FCC has imposed upon them.
[+] Do Cell Towers Ever Collapse?
Yes, more often than one would expect.
Like Smart Cars, Cell Towers are built to be economically sensible rather than being built to be as safe as possible. Moreover, the blinding pace of Cell Tower installations across the Country makes "quality control" over the manufacturing and installation processes virtually impossible.
As such, they present a very real danger of collapse, and the potential to cause harm such as property damage, and personal injury or death to anyone who might be unlucky enough to be near a 10 to 19 story Cell Tower when it fails.1
Unlike telephone poles, which consist of one solid piece of wood, Cell Towers are constructed of multiple individual components, the failure of one or more of which can cause a complete structural failure, and concomitant collapse.
Some of the most common areas and elements of failure which result in the collapse of Cell Towers are baseplates, flanges, joints, bolts and guy wires.
In some cases, Cell Towers have caught fire. With a simple visit to YouTube, you can watch multiple videos of a Cell Tower burning as it collapsed to the ground. Even their foundations have the capacity to fail.
For these reasons, it is imperative that local zoning authorities adopt and require strict compliance with setback requirements necessary to protect both local citizens and the public from the danger of collapse that Cell Towers present.
1 Most Cell Towers installed near residential areas range from 100 to 199 feet in height.
[See also Cell Tower Failures]
[+] Aren't Cell Towers Just as Safe as Telephone Poles?
No. Cell Towers and Telephone Poles (Utility Poles) are at opposite ends of the safety spectrum.
There are two critical differences which make telephone poles exponentially safer than Cell Towers, in terms of the danger of collapse. They are lateral support, and single-element construction.
The most common cause of telephone pole failure is car accidents, where a driver slams their car into the base of a telephone pole. When they strike it hard enough, they often snap the pole clean off at its base.
When that occurs, the pole generally does not fall, despite the fact that it has suffered a complete structural failure. The reason that severed telephone poles generally do not fall, is because they are held up by all of the telephone poles around them, to which they remain tethered by all of the power and communications lines which are attached to them.
By contrast, standard Cell Towers ranging from 100 to 170 feet in height generally have zero lateral support. As such, when they fail, there is absolutely nothing which can stop them from crashing down upon whatever or whomever happens to be near them.
In addition, unlike a Cell Tower which consists of an assemblage of multiple components, each one of which can fail, telephone poles consist of a single solid piece of wood. It is generally devoid of joints, baseplates, connecting bolts, ground-based guy wires or foundations, each of which have been known to fail and cause the collapse of a Cell Tower.
[See also Telephone Pole Failures]
[+] Does the installation of a Cell Tower reduce the values of nearby properties?
Yes. Just find a real estate broker whom you trust, and they will give you the same answer. Or simply ask yourself if you would prefer to purchase a home which has a Cell Tower looming over it, or one which doesn't.
The Bond and Hue - Proximate Impact Study
The Bond and Hue study conducted in 2004 involved the analysis of 9,514 residential home sales in 10 suburbs. The study reflected that close proximity to a Cell Tower reduced price by 15% on average.
The Bond and Wang - Transaction Based Market Study
The Bond and Wang study involved the analysis of 4,283 residential home sales in 4 suburbs between 1984 and 2002. The study reflected that close proximity to a Cell Tower reduced the price between 20.7% and 21%.
The Bond and Beamish - Opinion Survey Study
The Bond and Beamish study involved surveying whether people who lived within 100' of a tower would have to reduce the sales price of their home. 38% said they would reduce the price by more than 20%, 38% said they would reduce the price by only 1%-9%, and 24% said they would reduce their sale price by 10%-19%.
Experts, Courts and News
"As a licensed real estate broker with over 30 years of experience, it is my professional opinion that the installation of a Cellular Tower can significantly reduce the value of neighboring residential properties."
Lawrence Oxman, Licensed Real Estate Broker
United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a denial of a Cell Tower application based upon testimony of residents and a real estate broker, that the Tower would reduce the values of property which were in close proximity to the Tower.
Phone Masts (Cell Towers) Blight House Sales [Article Link]
[+] Isn't the FCC Protecting Us?
No. To the contrary, the FCC has employed, and continues to employ its power to assist the wireless industry in constructing as many Cell Towers and Cell Antennas as they can, as fast as they can, wherever they want, including atop public schools.
Each time the wireless companies encountered any form of resistance, from anyone, the FCC has come to their aid to issue regulatory decision after decision, to obliterate any obstacle the wireless company might face, including, but not limited to local governments and utilities which didn't immediately bow down to the whim of the wireless companies storming into their town or village.
Simultaneously, the FCC has abstained from exercising any meaningful oversight or control over the tens of thousands of Cell Towers which the wireless companies have been installing at a blistering pace.
The fact is that the FCC doesn't even know where all of the Cell Towers are, much less what levels of RF radiation such towers are bombarding upon local populations and schools.
If you want to know what the FCC is actually doing, go to the Government Related Information & Links section of this website.
Read the FCC's decisions, and the statements of the Commisssioners, and you can draw your own conclusions as to whether they are protecting the American public, or the wireless carriers they are supposed to be regulating.
[+] Do Cell Towers Cause Cancer or other Illnesses?
A personalized answer from Andrew J. Campanelli
I am not a scientist, and I do not consider myself an activist. I am just a lawyer.
As a litigator with nearly 20 years of experience in federal and state courts, I was asked to commence a lawsuit against subsidiaries of five of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, to force them to remove more than 50 cell antennas which were situated only 50 feet from an elementary school in New York.
After a New York City television station aired a news segment about the case, I began receiving e-mails, reports, and expert studies from around the world, regarding the adverse health impacts caused by RF emissions from Cell Towers.
Having read voluminous pages of such documents, reviewed case studies, and spoken to, and read the reports of, numerous research scientists, I have been personally constrained to come to four specific conclusions.
- First, that continued exposure to the RF radiation from Cell Towers can cause adverse health impacts such as cancer and leukemia, among others.
- Second, that the segment of the population which is most susceptible to the dangers of such adverse health impacts, are children.
- Third, unlike when a person voluntarily exposes themself to RF emissions by temporarily using their cell phone, when a Cell Tower is placed near a school, students are involuntarily exposed to continuous and prolonged RF emissions for up to eight hours per day, five days per week, for the entire school year.
- Fourth, for the reasons set forth above, the United States should join the other Countries, around the world, who have already banned, or are in the process of banning, the installation of any Cell Towers within 1,500 feet of schools. I arrived at my conclusions after reviewing:
- Numerous case studies and articles detailing cancer clusters around Cell Towers
[See Cancer & Leukemia News Links]
- Multiple expert studies regarding the adverse health impacts of RF emissions
[See Expert Studies Links]
- Multiple news reports confirming how many Countries, other than the U.S., have banned or are moving to ban the installation of Cell Towers near schools
[See School News Links]
- Numerous case studies and articles detailing cancer clusters around Cell Towers
[See also My Call Into the Cell Tower Battle]