Democracy Under Threat

Are your elected officials really representing you, or are they representing corporate interests?

All democracies struggle with corruption and undue political influence by non-elected special interests. Whereas most of them preserve the direct and indirect links of accountability between the people and government through laws regulating corporate and other special interests’ contributions to political campaigns and elected officials, as well as impose strict revolving door policies that prevent high-level government employees from moving into lobbying and industry positions and vice versa, the United States has seen a deterioration of such protections over the last several decades. The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which effectively opened up for unlimited corporate campaign contributions, is perhaps the most famous example of this attack on democracy, but in recent years, the number of high-level corporate employees taking on high-level government positions has been staggering, and the effects of this trend are immense.

This section of our website will focus in particular on the undue influence of the telecommunications and wireless industries on policies regulating and fast-tracking the deployment of small cell antennas, paving the way for a 5G cell tower in close proximity to virtually every home in our city. The Harvard Press book “Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries It Presumably Regulates” provides ample evidence of the ties between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the wireless industry, which is the very reason this website needs to exist.

“It is these hardball tactics that recall 20th century Big Tobacco tactics. It is these tactics that heighten suspicion that the wireless industry does indeed have a dirty secret. And it is those tactics that intensify the spotlight on an FCC that so timidly follows the script of the fabulously wealthy, bullying, billion-dollar beneficiaries of wireless.”
(Norm Alster, 2014. Captured Agency…)

Because of the scenario outlined above, local governments, more than ever, play the crucial role of acting as gate keepers of our democracy, protecting the interests of their citizens. This is particularly true when federal agencies such as the FCC are largely captured by industry interests. Hence, it’s also more important than ever for citizens to stay engaged with their local governments (in our case both at the city and county levels) as well as their state governments, to preserve our rights, and ultimately to restore democracy.

Lack of accountability and transparency in how Montgomery County handles cell tower applications

The Montgomery County Council has gone through several rounds of trying to pass an amendment to the zoning laws which would allow thousands of cell towers to be built in our front yards. These efforts have met a lot of resistance from citizens (Read some of the testimonies here and here).

Moreover, the current Montgomery County process for reviewing and evaluating applications for new cell towers is flawed in itself, and a letter from a number of concerned citizens, sent to the Montgomery County Tower Committee on December 1, 2020, exposes a pattern of serious errors in 25 cell tower applications that the Committee previously recommended. Those errors indicate a pattern of rubber-stamping applications with little accountability to those who live or work under or near wireless facilities. Whose interests do the elected officials on the Tower Committee represent? Clearly not ours.

An Example of How the County Conducts Meetings Where the Decisions Made Will Impact Thousands of MoCo Residents Health, Privacy and Property Values

The Committee meets monthly, with industry reps in attendance and actively participating, to review and make recommendations on all applications. Although meetings are open to the public, there is no way for the public to actively participate in Tower Committee meetings. Telecom reps are permitted to speak; residents are not! Read the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County Article. Despite residents’ repeated requests, the recordings of the meetings are not made and archived. When residents have sought to record the meetings themselves, the Tower Committee chair has threatened them with criminal penalties.

Marjorie Williams, Tower Committee Chair

Related Resources and Articles:

Harvard’s Zuboff on the Dangers of ‘Surveillance Capitalism’

Bloomberg Technology TV Shows February 8th, 2021, 8:00 PM EST

Shoshana Zuboff, professor emeritus of Harvard Business School and author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” discusses the threat that social media companies pose to democracy by collecting users’ “behavioral data.” She speaks to Emily Chang on “Bloomberg Technology.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Watch the video on

Shoshana Zuboff Photo

Ben Levi, Joe Sandri, Arthur Firstenberg and Julian Gresser discuss the growing problem of 5G satellites in space and what can be done. Presented by Americans for Responsible Technology.

If you are curious to know more about the history of the corporate takeover of government regulation on these issues, please see the following:

Be sure to catch what Tom says in the NPC video at time 15:10: “Yes 5G will connect the Internet of Everything. If something can be connected it will be connected in the 5G world. But with the predictions of hundreds of billions of microchips connected in products from pill bottles to plant waterers. You can be sure of only one thing, the biggest Internet of Things application has yet to be imagined.”