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Suburban Chicago Community Challenges 5G Antenna Deployment

Residents in Hinsdale, Western Springs and Oak Brook have raised concerns as 5G wireless antennas begin making their way into their villages, and in Hinsdale officials are giving some backing to those concerns.

(TNS) — Residents in the suburban Chicago communities of Hinsdale, Western Springs and Oak Brook have raised concerns as 5G wireless antennas begin making their way into their villages, but in Hinsdale the Village Board is giving some backing to those concerns.

Hinsdale created a page at dedicated to information about 5G wireless networks, including a brief explanation of the next generation in cellphone and mobile internet technology, legislation governing it and a place to submit questions and concerns.

5G uses higher frequency radio waves to transfer sound and data, wrote Chicago Tribune reporter Ally Marotti, who tested the new technology in Chicago. While the higher waves allow faster downloads of more data, they do not travel as well through buildings, trees and rain like prior generations of wireless technology, which operates on lower wavelengths. Consequently, wireless companies need to put antennas closer together.

How close depends on the topography, the foliage and the number of users in that area, said Steve Van Dinter, Verizon’s director of local area communications.

Hinsdale officials said the antennas typically have a coverage area of less than 1,000 feet and one every 200 feet might be proposed in the village.

If multiple companies install 5G networks, Hinsdale could become a village of poles, Village President Thomas Cauley, Jr. said.

About 15 residents attended a Hinsdale Village Board meeting Oct. 15 to urge the board to stop telecommunications companies from installing antennas they will need for 5G. A Facebook page called Stop 5G Hinsdale and Neighbors also has been created and has 337 members as of Tuesday.

Many people are concerned about the potential health risks from prolonged exposure to radio frequency emissions.

Cauley said Hinsdale is not in a position to assess the safety of 5G cell towers. More importantly, villages and local governments are prohibited by state and federal law from regulating the construction and placement of wireless telecommunications facilities on the basis of health or environmental effects, as long as they comply with federal regulations for emissions.

Van Dinter said Verizon’s equipment, including 5G small cells, operates well within the Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines.

A media spokesman for AT&T referred questions about 5G and radio frequency emissions to CTIA, a company that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry.

“The bottom line is,” Cauley said, “to the extent residents have safety concerns about 5G deployment, the village can do nothing about those. You should address those concerns to your congressmen and senators.”

Residents suggested they form a task force to oppose 5G antennas and Village Board member Luke Stifflear agreed to serve as the village liaison.

“Much like the Sterigenics,” Hinsdale resident Paige Glendinning said, “I think we have learned the government does not always have the people’s best interests as part of the agenda, sadly.”

“If we make enough noise, and make this a real pain in their rear, (telecommunications companies) will pick up and go somewhere else," Glendinning said.

Neither Verizon nor any other wireless carrier has applied to install 5G antennas in Hinsdale, Cauley said. If a carrier does apply, the village has 90 days to respond.

Village officials will ask the company to install the antennas on existing utility or streetlight poles.

La Grange has had a number of permit requests from Verizon and AT&T to install 5G antennas on existing utility poles, the village Public Works Director Ryan Gillingham said. The staff is working with the wireless carriers to design antennas that fit the aesthetics in the village, Gillingham said.

Western Springs has developed guidelines, such as if a streetlight needs to be replaced with one that can support the 5G equipment, the new streetlight must conform to Western Springs design standards, said village attorney Michael Jurusik.

“We are looking for ways to address what we can work with, which is aesthetics,” Jurusik said. "How can we accommodate the requirements and still be aesthetically pleasing to our village.”

By law, if a company wants an antenna where there is no available utility pole, it can install its own poles.

That is one of Oak Brook’s concerns. Some large subdivisions, such as Brook Forest and Midwest Club, have underground utilities, so no electric poles exist.

Oak Brook officials met with representatives of AT&T and Verizon last year, Jim Fox, the village’s information technology director, said.

The wireless companies prefer to have their 5G antenna on the top of a pole, like a crown, which may mean there would be only one antenna per pole, Fox said. The village is concerned there may be three or four separate telecommunications poles, each about 30 feet high, on a single corner.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all have 4G antennas on a cell tower near Oak Brook Village Hall, Fox said. By the end of this year, they plan to convert those antennas to 5G, he said.

©2019 Pioneer Press Newspapers (Suburban Chicago, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.