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Syracuse delays 5G vote over Verizon labor standards concerns

City of Syracuse YouTube
Councilor-at-Large Michael Greene and Councilor Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell.

The city of Syracuse is delaying a vote to deploy 5G wireless technology from Verizon, a priority of Mayor Ben Walsh. One common councilor said it’s to make sure they are doing all they can to protect the workers installing the new facilities.

Sam Edelstein, chief data officer with the city of Syracuse, said 5G has the potential to allow new technologies, like autonomous systems.

“The kind of connectivity, the low latency and the high bandwidth 5G offers is what enables that," Edelstein said. "Certainly, being one of the first cities to enable 5G is exciting.”

But Councilor Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell objected to a vote by the Syracuse Common Council Monday that if passed, would have given a blanket approval for Verizon to begin installing 5G facilities on the city’s streetlights. The objection tables the vote for two weeks. Lovejoy-Grinnell said she did so for two reasons.

“Is there any way we can object if we chose to, and I’m not even sure I’m there, but if we chose to, is there a way to object on health and safety grounds," Lovejoy-Grinnell said. "And then two, what way are we protecting labor standards to the best of our ability?”

She said Verizon has been known to not pay prevailing wages, has used non-union workers, and in some cases, undocumented workers, to do installations.

"We think that Verizon should be held to the same standard that they would be if we were doing any other kind of install or build within the city limits," Lovejoy-Grinnell said.

Mayor Ben Walsh said while he’s disappointed with the delay, he’s also undeterred, and his administration will focus on answering any remaining questions.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.