Verizon 5G Rollout Gets Rubber Stamp in Syracuse, N.Y.

The 5-3 vote on the part of Common Council gives the telecom the ability to begin installing small cell antennas throughout the city this summer. Some councilors voiced reservations about unknown health impacts.

by Chris Baker, Syracuse Media Group / May 21, 2019

(TNS) — The Syracuse Common Council approved a deal with Verizon that lets the company build a 5G wireless data network throughout the city.

The deal passed Monday by a vote of five to three.

Councilors Steve Thompson, Tim Rudd, Michael Greene, Joe Carni and Joe Driscoll voted yes on the deal. Councilors Khalid Bey, Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell and Latoya Allen voted no. Councilor Chad Ryan was absent.

With the agreement approved, Syracuse is poised to be among the first cities in the nation with citywide 5G. Verizon will begin installing 5G cell towers this summer.

Mayor Ben Walsh has pointed to 5G as a critical piece of his Syracuse Surge strategy -- a plan to reinvent the local economy with an emphasis on technology and the “Internet of Things.” Having a 5G network will make Syracuse a much more attractive place for businesses and tech start-ups.

Councilors have poked and prodded the new technology for weeks, seeking reassurances that it’s safe and that the massive installation by Verizon will benefit local workers. A planned vote earlier this month was delayed as the council sought information about the health effects.

A 5G network boosts the signal speed on devices like phones and tablets. More important, it allows for connectivity across all sorts of other devices, like smart refrigerators or self-driving cars.

The small cell towers are about the size of a mini refrigerator. They will be installed on almost every block in the city in order to provide full coverage. There will be around 600 towers installed over the next five years or less.

At Monday’s session, Councilor Driscoll said he voted yes despite some reservations. He said there is no conclusive science on the health impacts of 5G. He also said Walsh assured him the city would hold Verizon accountable if evidence arose of negative impacts from the towers.

Councilor Bey, who voted no, said it was important for councilors to be cautious and represent the people they work for.

Council President Helen Hudson said she didn’t believe the deal included enough benefits to the local workforce. As president, however, she does not get a vote.

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