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Syracuse approves 5G wireless technology from Verizon, despite some opposition

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
The Syracuse Common Council voted Monday to approve a deal that will bring 5G wireless technology to the city

5G wireless technology from Verizon is coming to the city of Syracuse, which would make it one of the first cities in the country with the new facilities for faster connectivity. But the vote to pass the measure did not go smoothly.

At a council meeting to approve the deal, Davy Campbell and other Syracuse residents voiced their opposition to the new technology to councilors, because of health concerns and risks from radiation.

“The idea itself is brilliant, it would be a boon," Campbell said. "But you can’t do it if it’s not going to be safe to the people that live in that community."

A Verizon spokesman said at a previous council meeting, 5G radio frequency signals are no different than what's used for a garage door opener, baby monitor or Wi-Fi router.

Councilor Joe Carni, a supporter of 5G, tried to table the item, to let concerned residents voice their opinions, but that was rejected. The council approved the 5G measure in a 5-3 vote. Councilor Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell voted against it, saying there is no scientific consensus that 5G is completely safe or dangerous.

"I remain concerned that the benefits are very speculative and the potential health risks, very speculative," Lovejoy-Grinnell said. 

Councilor Joe Driscoll, who voted for it, said 5G could have still moved forward, even if the council had voted it down. 

“Voting yes enables us to remain proactive and have say in the implementation and how the projects move forward," Driscoll said. "Voting it down means that 5G could still be installed, but would be on private property, and not in the right-of-way, and not with a contract with the city.” 

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, a proponent of 5G, said the agreement has safeguards in place to protect the health of residents, by having Verizon and the city test the facilities. It also requires Verizon to identify the subcontractors installing the facilities, which are about the size of a backpack and would be attached to some of the city's streetlights.

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.