My Turn —Mary Shaffer: Hilltown Wi-Fi: gift or curse?

  • Metro Creative Graphics Metro Creative Graphics


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Hawley, Monroe, Florida and Savoy are in a difficult situation. They, like many rural communities, do not have safe, fast, and unlimited access to the internet. Unfortunately, the only internet solution that is both future-proof and safe is a fiber-optic network to individual homes and this network comes at a higher price tag than installing a few dozen Wi-Fi poles and transmitting microwave radiation all over town.

The ironic part is that the American taxpayer has already paid for the mysteriously expensive and inaccessible fiber network. In a remarkable shell game, Big Telecom found a way to take these payments and re-route them to build out their cheaper wireless networks. And now WiValley, a small company from New Hampshire, with the help of a local telecom consultant, is ready to help some of our “left behind” towns “make the best of it” with a solution that puts children, pollinators, the elderly, pregnant mothers, and those with chronic conditions like Lyme disease particularly at risk.

The industry response to the more than 25,000 studies finding biological harm from “legal” doses of microwave radiation is “more research is necessary,” echoing the response of Big Tobacco and Big Oil. Meanwhile, millions across the globe have early stage microwave sickness — headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, attention/behavior issues, sleep disturbance, etc. And of those millions, many, like myself, have advanced cases and no longer have access to public spaces.

Before a recent meeting, billed as a “come and learn” about the proposal, I asked if the wifi could be turned off at the elementary school so I could attend without feeling ill. I was told “Wi-Fi is needed for the meeting.” In fact, it was simply WiValley’s owner and a projector with slides selling his idea which could easily have been loaded onto his laptop. Electro-sensitivity has been recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 2017, Professor Olle Johannson of Sweden compared brain scans of those with microwave sickness and a control group demonstrating this is not a psychosomatic condition. His team has also generated two mirror-image maps of Sweden: one showing high density areas of microwave radiation and another matching map with the highest density of Alzheimer’s disease. The citizens of Hawley, Savoy, Monroe and Florida are already exposed to quite a bit of radiation: radio and TV broadcasts, dirty electricity from house current and solar inverters, their previously safe analog electric meters which are now continually pulsing microwave radiation … but they are about to be exposed to a whole lot more — and not through WiValley.

SpaceX and OneWeb have received FCC approval to launch thousands of low-altitude satellites, beginning this year, covering the planet in Wi-Fi radiation. There are about eight companies in line behind them. After someone brought this up at the meeting, the consultant’s response was “I’ve been hearing about this for 20 years” as if that was a reason it will not happen now.

In late March, Congress wedged the “Mobile Now Act” into the Omnibus Spending Bill, stripping towns of their ability to regulate the placement of “small cells” (mini cell towers) in the right of way, i.e., the electric, telephone and light poles yards away from our homes. This “5G” cellular network, as horrific as it is, will also contribute to making WiValley’s proposal obsolete.

Other governments are taking action. Sweden now makes disability payments to more than 350,000 people with microwave sickness. France, Israel, Cyprus, and Switzerland have prohibited and/or limited Wi-Fi in schools. China requires pregnant women wear a protective shield over the fetus. Appeasing people by saying this proposal has much lower radiation levels than the FCC allows does not address studies demonstrating higher rates of cancer at lower levels, i.e., the “windows” of exposure we are just learning about. The FCC, according to a Harvard ethics report, is a “captured agency.”

Additional aspects of the plan not covered in your recent article “WiValley Makes Wireless Pitch to Hilltowns” include:

The network would require installing a Wi-Fi tower at the top of Legate Hill in Charlemont. Studies show that homes near cell towers lose about 15 percent of their value.

“Town owned” poles would be fair game for Telecom to install “small cells.”

The article stated the WiValley owner said the “latest wireless networks have less impact than using a cell phone does ...” In fact, his claim was that his transmitters have less signal strength than a phone. Unfortunately, signal strength is only one factor that influences toxicity and is not the most critical. Other factors include pulsation and length of exposure.

No one moves to or stays in the Hilltowns for great internet access. We all want to live in a healthy environment and be connected — but we have to stand up and fight together not to lose the increasingly rare gift these towns still possess and look at how to reduce exposure in other communities. Leaders and constituents should demand safe, wired internet access and not accept insufficient payments from the Mass. Broadband Institute endangering citizens with wireless quick fixes. Most towns in this region have outdated telecom bylaws that will give them no leg to stand on when small cell “applications” start coming in.

Please visit local resource hilltownhealth.org and national leader Environmental HealthTrust at ehtrust.org to join the fight.

Mary Shaffer is a Hawley resident.