URGENT: Act Now to Give the Public a Voice in Licensing of Wireless Facilities on Poles

The County recently released a draft Pole Attachment License Agreement (PLA) that would provide authorization for companies to attach wireless facilities on or in existing or replacement County-owned streetlight poles. Because a licensee can request authorization to attach to any streetlight pole, the PLA poses significant impacts for residents and County at-large. The PLA was released on the Transmission Facilities Coordination Group (TFCG) web page with little or no public notice and only three weeks for public comments, which are due Monday, April 25! The public was allowed only 3,000 characters to comment and could not include any links. The lack of notice and the short time-frame for comments are inadequate and inconsistent with County Executive Elrich’s guiding principles.

Please write to County Executive Elrich and TFCG chair Marjorie Williams and urge them to provide more time for public comments, as well as meaningful notice, public outreach, and an atmosphere that sincerely encourages substantive public comments! Please also submit your comments on the TFCG link.

Takoma Park City Council Sends Letter Opposing the Passage of ZTA 19-07

The City Council has sent a letter to the Montgomery County Council opposing the passage of Zoning Text Amendment 19-07 (Telecommunications Towers – Limited Use) as currently drafted.

“The City of Takoma Park wants every resident of Montgomery County to have equitable access to affordable broadband internet. However, everyone should have a voice in the planning process. This ZTA, as currently drafted, would cut municipalities and residents out of the planning and siting process for many new “small” cell towers and strip us of our voices.”

Read the complete letter

This original news alert was published June 23, 2021 on takomaparkmd.gov


MCPS Students’ Personal Data Is Used for Race-based Profiling & Profits

Dear Parents/Guardians/Students,

5 years ago, local parents discovered something fishy about Naviance, the online college and career readiness platform MCPS kids use starting in 6th grade: Naviance profiles kids using their personal information (yours, too) and sells it. We brought this to the attention of MCPS. Repeatedly. Meeting after meeting, nothing happened.

Now the nation knows, thanks to a 1/22/22 investigative report in The Markup.

Schools in Europe, where privacy laws are much stricter, replaced Naviance (and its parent company, Powerschool — the engine behind MyMCPS). Our kids deserve that privacy, also.

Please sign this petition to show your concern.

Help end the ‘data farming’ and racial profiling of our children. Share with parents and students!

For Immediate Release. Statement by Rick Meyer, Executive Director, Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers (MC4T) –Whoops, PHED Committee Chair Goofs Again; ZTA 19-07 Needs Big Band-Aid

For Immediate Release

Statement by: Rick Meyer, Executive Director,
Montgomery County Coalition for the Control of Cell Towers (MC4T)

Whoops, PHED Committee Chair Goofs Again; ZTA 19-07 Needs Big Band-Aid

Councilmember Hans Reimer is fully admitting that he and the wireless industry lobbyists, who last year essentially spoon-fed the Montgomery County Council zoning language for ZTA 19-07, made a Titanic-sized mistake. A mistake so big it requires a “Mulligan ZTA” to repair a giant hole.

Today, Mr. Riemer introduced ZTA 2022-01, which is “fix-it” legislation to specifically include utility poles. Turns out that utility poles are separately defined under County wireless zoning code and not subject to ZTA 19-07. To fix the hole requires a ZTA 2022-01 patch job. Which means Mr. Reimer is also effectively conceding that when recommending ZTA 19-07 to the full Council, the PHED Committee that he chairs (including Councilmembers Andrew Friedson and Will Jawando), inexplicably managed to omit the essential giveaway that the wireless industry coveted most: Unfettered access to more than 30,000 utility poles in Montgomery County!

Further, ZTA 2022-01 will cut in half the minimum set-back distance in residential zones to just 30 feet for utility poles instead of the 60 feet that applies now. The “do over” illustrates that neither Mr. Riemer nor his co-sponsors (Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice) had any idea when ZTA 19-07 was drafted back in 2018 how the wireless sections of Montgomery County’s complicated zoning code actually worked .

And even though Mr. Riemer’s PHED Committee added radical amendments offering up incredible handouts and concessions just to benefit wireless corporations (and ignoring opposition testimony of dozens of residents) ZTA 19-07 still wasn’t good enough! Those amendments included lopsided procedures and low-ball fees for conditional use hearings.

It took Mr. Riemer 5 years of flailing away at various failed wireless ZTAs to finally pass an industry written ZTA 19-07. He did so under the cover of the COVID-19 global health crisis that locked us all in our homes. He relied on “virtual” Council meetings with no further public hearings in the 20 months since the one and only public hearing – that was based only upon early un-amended drafts of the zoning change. After all that maneuvering , the wireless lobbyists belatedly discovered they’d managed (from their viewpoint) to pass a profoundly flawed ZTA 19-07.

So, Mr. Riemer and the wireless lobbyists now want more – they want ALL those utility poles just 30 feet from dwellings – and he is unabashedly asking the County Council to further pander to the wireless industry, again, by voting for a Mulligan (“do-over”) ZTA 2022-01.

Nice job, Councilmember Riemer. Go ahead, take another swing.


Don’t want a cell tower 30 feet from your bedroom window?

Join us to help defeat ZTA 22-01Stop ZTA 19-07 Yard Photo

The County Council is at it again. They want to pass yet another bill to make it even easier to build thousands of additional cell towers 30 feet from homes, on existing utility or light poles. This new bill comes despite adopting ZTA 19-07 last year, a zoning law the Council pushed through for the wireless industry over residents’ intense objections.


Tell Council President Gabe Albornoz (At-Large) and the rest of the lame-duck Council to cancel the hearing on ZTA 22-01 and allow the incoming Council to consider any changes to the zoning code. (The lead sponsor of 22-01 lost in his primary election bid, but is intent on one more handout to the wireless industry before leaving office this winter.


Jan. 18th, 2022 Testimony for Montgomery County Council Hearings on Resolutions to Implement Rules and Fees Related to ZTA 19-07

Jan. 18th , 2022 Testimony for Montgomery County Council Hearings on Resolutions to Implement Rules and Fees Related to ZTA 19-07

Colleen Cordes, Takoma Park. Please reject both proposals to implement ZTA 19-07.

Instead, immediately rescind ZTA 19-07. Don’t implement it while the FCC is in the midst of responding to its new court mandate to come up with a well-reasoned explanation for whatever exposure limits for wireless radiation it endorses. This should require the FCC to thoroughly review ALL science related to the safety of its exposure limits for health and the environment – which should be aided by robust reviews from pertinent federal agencies. The FCC should then come up with new exposure limits that are fully supported by such thorough scientific review.

As a body, you should strongly advocate directly to the FCC and our Congressional delegation for such robust review of ALL the science – and truly protective new limits. And drop any idea of implementing ZTA 19-07. Its assumption that it’s safe to drastically weaken County rules for placing cell towers is now clearly obsolete.

In July, seven of you irresponsibly rushed to vote for this ZTA, even though you knew a US Court of Appeals was expected to rule within weeks against the FCC, due to the FCC’s obvious failure to provide evidence its wireless safety limits are well-grounded in science. Yet several of you assured your constituents that we could trust FCC limits to protect us.

Now it’s clear you were wrong. The validity of the FCC’s limits are absolutely up in the air. Read the court’s blistering ruling. It found that FCC showed no sign of having taken into account reams of submitted evidence on children’s special vulnerability to radiation, effects of long-term exposures, non-cancer effects, the proliferation of wireless since FCC set limits 25 years ago, and impacts to wildlife and the environment. Any legal pressure on you to pass weak new zoning rules – which was never as onerous as you imagined – is now much less. Instead, your moral and potential legal exposure is now much greater if you do not rescind this ZTA.

Please stand up for science. Rescind this ZTA. Press FCC, based on a thorough review of ALL the science, to issue a well-reasoned explanation for new exposure limits that are truly protective. Thank you.


Wireless Safety Standards Should Protect People and Wildlife – Take Action – Join EHT’s Campaign

U.S. safety limits for wireless radiation have not been reviewed for over 25 years. In August, a landmark federal court ruled that the FCC did not adequately review all the evidence when the FCC refused to update its 1996 wireless radiation exposure limits. The court ruling states the FCC did not respond to research indicating numerous harmful effects from long term exposures, especially for children. Furthermore the FCC was found to have “completely failed” to respond to science showing harm to the environment — our trees, birds and pollinators.

Leading U.S scientists have written to President Biden and U.S. Congress calling on them to take immediate action to ensure science-based protections for the public and the environment.

Join EHT’s letter writing campaign calling on our elected leaders to support the scientists and to take the following actions after this landmark court won:

  • A comprehensive research and policy review by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
  • An environmental impact review for 5G and 4G deployment which includes not only effects from increased radiation but also climate impacts from increased energy use of the new networks and devices.
  • A halt to 5G and wireless densification until the development of science-based wireless radiation safety limits for human, wildlife, and environmental exposures by U.S. health and environmental agencies that protect against biological effects.
  • A congressional hearing to investigate how this issue has been handled for the last two decades by federal agencies and to ensure policymakers are aware of the latest science and policy recommendations.
  • A federal action plan which includes monitoring and public posting of environmental exposures; ensuring post-market surveillance for health effects; enacting policies to reduce public exposures; and educating consumers about how they can personally reduce their exposure.

America needs to invest in a safe technology infrastructure instead of racing into 5G. Our government health agencies can and should develop safety limits for wireless based on the latest research. Educating our elected officials about this ruling and demanding federal accountability depends on us.

Act Now! Our letter writing campaign makes it easy.

Simply enter your information to send a letter to your representatives to encourage them to take action to protect the public and the environment.


2021 Letter to President Biden and Congress

Ruling in EHT et al v FCC by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

New Hampshire State Commission Final Report of the 5G Health and Environmental Effects

Factsheet on August Court Ruling to share with elected officials

Read more science at ehtrust.org

TESTIMONY OF ANGELA SIEFER Executive Director NATIONAL DIGITAL INCLUSION ALLIANCE Before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Committee on Energy and Commerce

"Myth #2. The excitement around 5G has led to claims 5G will solve the digital divide. It will not. Current broadband technologies were not deployed to all neighborhoods (unless local governments mandated such) and there is no reason to think 5G will be any different. Additionally, 5G as a broadband service will require 5G capable devices. Low income households struggling to pay for internet service will certainly not rush out to purchase a 5G enabled device."

5G won't bridge the digital divide

Read Angela Siefer’s full testimony:

Before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Committee on Energy and Commerce

On “Empowering and Connecting Communities Through Digital Equity and Internet Adoption”

Washington DC January 29, 2020

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5G won't bridge the digital divide

An Unsupported Rationale: The So-Called Legal Case for Montgomery County’s ZTA 19-07 Falls Apart

July 12, 2021

Peter L. Kahn, J.D., Ph.D.
Montgomery County Resident


The County Council appears poised to adopt ZTA 19-07 in part because some members believe that doing so is legally required. That is simply not the case.

Give the Community a Voice: Support A Stakeholder Advisory Group.


One basis for believing this is the FCC’s Small Cell Orders of 2018, which proposes a “material inhibition” standard for the courts to use in evaluating claims under Section 332 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 — in other words, does a denial of a permit for a cell antenna “materially inhibit” the placement or construction of wireless cell facilities. Most denials of permits will materially inhibit their placement, and thus this standard strongly favors the interests of telecom companies. However, literally no federal court has adopted this standard for cases under Section 332, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has made it clear that the FCC has no authority to change the federal courts’ interpretations of federal law. The standard that has always been used, and continues to be used, by the Courts of Appeals across the country is the “effective prohibition” standard. It asks, does this denial of permit effectively prohibit the provision of cell service? This is a much tougher standard for telecoms to meet, especially when cell service is already abundantly available from multiple carriers. But the “effective prohibition” standard continues to be applied by all the Courts of Appeals for such cases, and no court anywhere has abandoned that standard in favor of the FCC’s preferred “material inhibition” standard for cases under Section 332.

The other basis offered for believing that ZTA 19-07 is legally necessary is the recent case City of Portland v. FCC. In that case, the Ninth Circuit looked at proposed regulations arising under a completely different section of the Telecommunications Act, that is, Section 253. The court in that case applied a “material inhibition” standard, just as it always has in cases arising under Section 253. One might be forgiven for confusing the Section 253 “material inhibition” standard, with the FCC’s proposed “material inhibition” standard for Section 332, but in fact they have different origins. City of Portland did not deal with Section 332, and clearly did not adopt a “material inhibition” standard for Section 332 cases. The “effective prohibition” standard for cases under Section 332 remains in effect in every federal circuit, including the Ninth Circuit.

Section 332 of the Act specifically deals with the “placement, construction, or modification,” of personal wireless facilities — in other words, the very subject matter that the proposed ZTA 19-07 deals with. Any legal claims that might be prevented by the adoption of 19-07 would (in the absence of 19-07) be evaluated by the courts under the legal standard that has always been applied to Section 332 — in other words, the “effective prohibition” standard — because those claims would arise under Section 332, dealing with “placement, construction, or modification” of cell facilities. The FCC’s Small Cell Orders did not change that. The City of Portland case did not change that. Under every federal Court of Appeals in the country, cases dealing with “placement, construction, or modification” of cell facilities will be examined under Section 332 under an unchanged “effective prohibition” standard.

In Montgomery County, a telecom asking for review under Section 332’s “effective prohibition” standard is likely to lose. Our County already has excellent cell service. Just look at the coverage maps published on their websites by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. It will be challenging for any permit applicant to claim seriously that our County has “effectively prohibited” cell service. In truth, we are in full compliance with federal law, and any legal claims against Montgomery County’s local governments will be very difficult for the telecom applicant to win.

Indeed, adopting ZTA 19-07 would itself be a massive change in the standards for cell placement — it would take away virtually all local control, and grant to any telecom the right to use any piece of public property it wishes. This would constitute a massive give-away of epic proportions to the telecom industry, and would be a policy and legal mistake of the first order.

Read the full PDF in the viewer below or download here.


U.S. National Toxicology Program Fact Sheet
Summarizes Results of Its 10 Years of Studying Radio-Frequency Radiation

Highlighting has been added to mark some key points in the document, especially about RF radiation in general and about 5G specifically. The document was last updated by the U. S. National Toxicology Program — a major federal, inter-agency program housed in the world-renowned U.S. National Institutes of Health — in August 2020. Especially worth noting about this 10-year, $30-million set of federal studies is this point: “. . . the studies question the long-held assumption that radio frequency radiation is of no concern as long as the energy level is low and does not significantly heat the tissues.” That’s the assumption that the FCC based its now 25-year-old limits for human exposure to RF radiation on.

Also, note the discussion about 5G on p. 4.  It clearly indicates that the federal scientists who have studied the biological effects of RF-radiation most closely aren’t sure what levels of exposure to 5G radiation at the frequency of millimeter waves would be safe. It also indicates that those scientists do not assume it would be safe at the levels FCC rules currently allow, because those rules rest on the old assumption that these studies challenge. In fact, it states that “scientists do not know if millimeter waves may cause toxicity in the skin and other human tissues.” Finally, it clearly indicates that more research is needed to figure that out — and to find out what would be safe exposure levels.

The question for the rest of us: Will we let the FCC force a premature roll out of 5G in every neighborhood of Montgomery County and the nation before we know the answers to those outstanding public-health questions?

(NOTE: This same fact sheet, without this explanatory annotation, is posted on the website of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — the Institute at the U.S. National Institutes of Health where the NTP is headquartered. The NTP coordinates the evaluation of RF radiation and other potential toxins across relevant federal agencies, so its authority is especially pertinent on this issue.)

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Breaking News & Action Alert: County Executive Calls For Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Working Group For Cell Towers Siting in Residential Areas

ScreenShot Marc Elrich memo_re Cell Tower Bill ZTA 1907

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“My staff and I have talked with many residents and industry representatives, and we have found them to be knowledgeable and willing to help improve the process. I would like to propose that we convene a working group comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders, including industry, residents, municipalities and homeowner/tenant associations and/or non-profit organizations. Staff support would be provided by Executive and Council staff. The group would have a limited time – perhaps 75 -90 days – to present written recommendations. I believe such a group would allow opportunity for a more complete discussion of these issues.” 

“Regarding concerns about ZTA 19-07, I have the following concerns and comments:

  1. The ZTA does not set any proposed minimum setback from a building; it is a limited use  process up to 30 feet from the building and then it is a “modified conditional use” process  for less than 30 feet setback.”

Hats off to Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Executive, for for actually wanting to engage ALL stakeholders on these complex and important issues!

Call and E-mail  ALL Councilmembers Now and Tell Them You Support Marc Elrich’s Multi-stakeholder Advisory Working Group For Cell Towers Siting in Residential Areas. You may also send an e-mail letter using our Action Network link. It only takes a minute!

phone * e-mail * tweet

Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz (ZTA 19-07 co-sponsor) 240-777-7959

Councilmember Andrew Friedson 240-777-7828
Councilmember.Friedson@ montgomerycountymd.gov

Councilmember Evan Glass 240-777-7966

Tom Hucker (Council President) 240-777-7960

Councilmember Will Jawando 240-777-7811

Councilmember Sidney Katz 240-777-7906

Councilmember Nancy Navarro 240-777-7968

Councilmember Craig Rice (ZTA 19-07 co-sponsor) 240-777-7955

Councilmember Hans Riemer (ZTA 19-07 Lead Sponsor) 240-777-7964

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich 240-777-2500