Should Social, Environmental, and Racial Justice Groups Sound the Alarm About the Digital Divide, Internet Access and 5G? (Part 2)

By Patricia Burke

“It’s about time that we create a better, more equitable, sustainable and future, and we can do this if we work together. We need to embrace our responsibility to be fully and visibly connected to the fight against racism, and frankly injustices of all kind.” – Natural Resource Defense Council’s President and CEO Gina McCarthy, Virtual Conversation: The Deep Connection Between Healthy Communities and Racial Justice

In part 1 of this 3-part series, we looked an efforts by the U.S. to pressure other nations to raise their RF exposure limits to accommodate 5G; the fact that the FCC has already been auctioning off frequencies prior to the international community and ITU coming to consensus on standards; and the FCC’s bullying of other U.S. regulatory agencies:

Part 2 of 3: International Exploitation, The Economic Divide, The Racial Divide, The Safety Divide, Bullying, and Active Discrimination

Does the Wireless Paradigm Perpetuate Racial and Economic Divides Through Failure to Address the Conflict Mineral, Manufacturing, and E-waste Harm Being Inflicted on Predominantly Poorer Nations and Black and Brown Peoples? Do Black Lives Matter in All Nations?

Can the telecom industries claim that they are working to serve social agendas including the digital divide, homework divide, and race, while ignoring the environmental degradation and human rights violations resulting from the unacknowledged costs of conflict and rare earth mineral mining and extraction in other countries?1

Can the demand for more interconnected devices continue to render the toll in human suffering associated with the manufacturing of devices, including but not limited to hazardous working conditions, workplace abuse, and exploitation, for example in factories in China, irrelevant?2

Why have the industry and its regulators continued to ignore the planetary footprint and immense cost in human suffering directly caused by e-waste, which pollutes both the land and the water table, which is outsourced to impoverished nations by the wealthier populations, 3 and which will be amplified by the demand for a new generation of devices that are compatible with the 5G network? 4

Does The Wireless Paradigm Perpetuate or Address the Economic Divide?

In 2011, the National and Information Administration of the United States Department of Commerce reported, “Here is what we know: Households that do not subscribe to any Internet service — dial-up or broadband — cited as the main reasons a lack of need or interest (47%); lack of affordability (24%); and an inadequate computer (15%). However, 27% of dial-up users — a rapidly declining group of users — indicated that they did not have broadband internet access service in their area.” 5

Is there any evidence that lower-income consumers in any country will be able afford, or choose to purchase, the more expensive phones or devices required to access the 5G network?6 In fact, will the lack of affordability for the devices, for example, internet connected refrigerators, air conditioners, and laundry appliances themselves exacerbate rather than address the underlying income and economic divide? Given that many homes occupied by low income residents are rentals, with very few appliances, for example, no washing machine, dryer, dish washer, or air conditioner, isn’t the promise of the internet of things, smart meters that enable time-of-use billing, etc. already favoring certain income groups? Will the increases in cost for a faster, more infrastructure-dense delivery system that caters to the heaviest users demanding the fastest service increase out of pocket costs for all users? 7

In addition, as carriers retire access to previous generations of 2G and 3G services, how many consumers will be forced to purchase new phones and other devices before the end of a device’s useful life,8 further contributing to the intensification of manufacturing and production costs, and the planetary burden of waste disposal?

Manufacturers are promoting the idea of private 5G networks, with vendor Nokia noting that many of its customers do not even need 5G.

According to Nokia,

Some of our industrial customers and ecosystem partners are thrilled to be able to set up 5G trial networks. It allows them to begin testing the technology in the real world and validating their use cases with OEMs, machine vendors and system integrators to prepare for the factory of the future. Other customers, in markets like Germany, Japan or the UK, will also be pleased since their vertical local spectrum, in cmW or mmW, is only suitable for 5G or there is no 4.9G ecosystem in that band. So, they are driving for early adoption of the 5G technology and related ecosystem to ensure they jump on the digitalization boat as early as possible. Today, Nokia has more than 30 enterprise customers that fall into these two camps. In the first case, for example, we have the automotive industry, which needs to start planning today for factories that will be built in 2023; there are also industry research centers and OEMs that run test facilities to design the solutions of the future. In the second case, because of spectrum limitations for 4.9G in their countries, some of our customers have decided to start their private wireless journey from the beginning with 5G. However, for most of our private wireless customers, 4.9G/LTE is still the right answer for now and for the longer term with its much more mature ecosystem of devices. There are many validated industrial use cases in operation today that provide tangible business benefits that make them more competitive, resilient, sustainable and agile. When Nokia Bell Labs did a deep dive on the uses industries and enterprises have for private wireless, it showed that the performance of 4.9G/LTE was good enough for more than 85 percent of today’s applications — hence many enterprises are likely not to need 5G in the mid-long term.9

Are we already on a fast ride to nowhere, with wide-scale investment and construction already taking place that creates population-wide exposures, with no business case except for very limited applications?

Is the industry itself beginning the question the narrative it constructed?

Does the Wireless Paradigm and 5G Perpetuate or Address the Racial Divide?

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance describes itself as “a unified voice for home broadband access, public broadband access, personal devices and local technology training and support programs.”

Angela Siefer and Bill Callahan wrote,

Limiting Broadband Investment to “Rural Only” Discriminates Against Black Americans and other Communities of Color.” They explain, “The federal government’s existing broadband programs target tens of billions of dollars to expand broadband availability for residents of “unserved and underserved” rural areas, while studiously ignoring tens of millions of urban Americans who still lack high-speed internet service. What do we learn from the data? The most urban cities and counties in the U.S. have many more residents who lack home broadband service than do the most rural counties. All of the nation’s counties whose populations are at least 75% rural, taken together, accounted for less than 8% of Americans living in households with no broadband. In contrast, the most urban counties — those with fewer than 5% rural residents — accounted for more than 35%. Unconnected residents in the nation’s largest cities and urban counties far outnumber unconnected residents in the most rural and “unserved” counties, regardless of race. But the urban/rural disparity for people of color and for Black Americans is far greater than for non-Hispanic whites. For example, there were slightly fewer white residents without broadband in our dataset from the 111 biggest cities than there were in the most rural counties (2.7 million vs. 2.9 million); but there were seven times as many unconnected Black residents in the cities, and almost nine times as many unconnected people of color. 10

Lower income individuals often live in close proximity to major infrastructure, such as coal-fired power plants. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by environmental toxins and placement of nuisance infrastructure. 11 Low-income urban housing is often linked with higher levels of particulate air pollution, which is one variable that has been statistically linked, by race, to higher covid illness and death rates. In May of 2020, it was reported that Black Americans were dying of Covid-19 at three times the rate of white people.12

Independent science indicates that radio frequency exposure is an environmental and health stressor that may in fact exacerbate other existing health challenges.13 High density housing features a higher concentration of sources of inescapable radio frequency exposure, i.e. from smart meters, smart lighting, routers, modems, etc. For example, an urban school in Worcester, MA has over 400 antennas is a 4 mile radius, while high income rural Dover only hosts.14 When shot spotter gunshot detection devices, metal detectors, traffic light cameras, and other man-made electromagnetic devices are also added into the urban setting, exposures are very high even when access to high speed internet is low.

Surveillance infrastructure targets communities of color and low income areas, and Black Americans in particular pay the price. 15

Lack of access to the internet is not caused by lack of radio frequency exposure in urban areas. Low income residents regardless of race are subjected to the exposure risks, without accessing the benefits. Additional infrastructure to support faster speeds and lower latency will increase urban radio frequency exposure.

Pam Steinberg, one of the residents affected by the reportedly corrupt and very controversial smart meter pilot program in Worcester, MA (which targeted specific neighborhoods without knowledge or consent) noted, “Radiation without representation is tyranny.”

Is the U.S. conflating the issue of the digital divide and the racial divide, and ignoring the multitude of confounding factors that limit accessibility to internet access, including but not limited to both cost and lack of interest/demand?

Does The Wireless Paradigm Perpetuate or Address Safety and Emergency Response?

Telehealth and Remote Surgery

One of the drivers of the 5G narrative is safety and health, with claims that it will enable tele-health, provide the opportunity for remote surgery, and that it will enhance emergency response.

What the narrative fails to do is to distinguish between the benefits provided by internet connectivity, and the supposed benefits of wireless connectivity. Having the ability to communicate with a health care provider at a distance is a benefit for some patients in some circumstances, while being exposed to wireless radio frequencies has been linked with adverse health effects. The industry and its regulators have continued to deny harm, in the same manner that the tobacco industry corrupted the science for decades. In the case of covid, many patients still needed to travel to receive a diagnostic test. Any business case for 5G should be scrutinized to determine whether or not hard wired, safer, faster, more reliable internet access would be the only reasonable approach, if health is the priority.

Remote surgery appeals to the defense/warfare/weapons industry, but in truth, patients fare far better in surgery when they are stabilized first, a lesson that physicians learned from veterinarians. Will the claimed benefits go down in flames, in the same vein as google glass for surgery?16 Do patients have the option to vote on whether their surgeons get to experiment with new technologies? Isn’t it more effective to have everyone in the operating room, and not just the surgeons, seeing what is unfolding? What is the percentage of patients or surgeries for which remote surgery is safe and appropriate? If there is a legitimate need, could the high speed communications be direct, and only be activated on demand?

Telephone Service Access

In the United States, the retirement and lack of maintenance of copper landlines is forcing consumers to access telephone connectivity via a cellphone or through the internet only, whether they want to or not.17

Many consumers prefer the option to have landline service because it does not pose a safety risk in the case of an electrical outage. But consumers have been forced to accept what, for them, is an unsafe option, especially in climate-sensitive and fire-prone areas, and particularly for the elderly. 18 Statistics concerning “broadband adoption” are not indicative of customer choice.

High Risk Areas and Emergency Response

In fire-prone California, legislation was recently passed requiring back-up power for cellular towers and antennas.19 While beneficial to the industry and its investors, it does not increase safety for cellphone owners when the power goes out and the phone battery dies. Voters and consumers may have favored the security of landline service if they had been consulted.

Regarding safety agencies and 5G, the Firstnet network was instituted nationwide in the U.S. to provide coverage for emergency responders. According to Light Reading, “AT&T in 2017 won a contract with FirstNet to build a nationwide LTE network specifically for public-safety users, using FirstNet’s 20MHz of nationwide 700MHz spectrum. So far AT&T has built out roughly 80% of FirstNet’s 700MHz Band 14 spectrum, putting it ahead of schedule. The officials at FirstNet are finally pulling back the veil on 5G by detailing some of their initial planning efforts around the technology. The agency confirmed that one of its main technological goals for this year would be to pursue investments in “initial generational upgrades to the FirstNet Core to enable 5G network capabilities.” “This investment opportunity will also set us on a path to enable 5G capabilities when they are ready for public safety’s use,” the agency said in its 2019 annual report to Congress.”20

When Telecommunications Fried the Brains of Firefighters

What the Light Reading report does not mention is that the International Association of Firefighters has fought to prohibit the installation of telecom antennas on fire houses, after evidence of brain damage was documented in some of the first responders.21 As Susan Foster wrote to the CA legislature:

Throughout California firefighters have long complained of often disabling symptoms from cell towers on their stations. Cities frequently rent out space on fire stations to add to city revenue. Firefighters live and sleep in the stations when on duty, and have experienced significant RF radiation exposure.

A 2004 SPECT brain scan study of firefighters in Central California found brain abnormalities in all the men tested, as well as delayed reaction time, lack of impulse control and cognitive impairment. None of the men worked HazMat, so chemical exposure was ruled out. All the firefighters tested had suffered from sleep disturbances, headaches, lack of focus and memory loss following installation of a tower adjacent to their station five years earlier. They sued the wireless company that told them the towers were perfectly harmless, but Sec. 704 of The Telecommunications Act of 1996 does not allow health to be taken into consideration when siting a tower, so the judge dismissed the lawsuit.22

The FirstNet network may be used as a Trojan horse to cover more of the nation with 5G, without the knowledge or consent of communities. There is no evidence that 5G infrastructure and devices will address any of the health risks associated with previous generations of wireless telecommunications, or that First Responders want to be subjected to additional radio frequencies, especially millimeter waves, which may be even more damaging and biologically active than previous applications.

One of the most egregious examples of the industry seeking to manipulate public opinion regarding safety involved a Verizon television ad that aired during the Super Bowl. 23 As reported by Business Insider, A YouTuber combined one of Verizon’s new Super Bowl ads honoring firefighters with news headlines from last year when the Santa Clara County Fire Department in California sued Verizon for throttling its data speeds during a natural disaster. Santa Clara County’s fire chief submitted emails and evidence last year showing how Verizon had slowed the fire department’s “unlimited” data plan to near-unusable speeds during a handful of fire emergencies, which “severely interfered” with the department’s ability to function properly. 24

Telecommunications money dominates advertising budgets, with little to no regulatory oversight for truth in advertising. Recently, the Irish Press ombudsman rebuked the Times for its false and misleading reports on 5G safety in violation of Ireland’s Truth and Accuracy in Journalism Standards as the result of a complaint by Professor Tom Bulter. 25 The story was not covered in the U.S. by the mainstream press or reported by the NYT, which is also a 5G partner with Verizon.26

Is The Wireless Paradigm Manifesting Bullying, and Abuse of Community and Individual Rights?

Should the wireless industry have the right to overrule local decision-making regarding infrastructure placement, whether by state-run decision making (China27 and South Africa28 ) or by passing enabling legislation that enables private industry to override local/community-based decision making (United States 29 and Europe 30 )?

Should the wireless industry’s expansion be enabled by the “taking” property value from private property owners and homeowners, caused by the proximal installation of nuisance infrastructure, (towers and antennas), without compensation, be allowed? 31

One driver being used by the industry for increased connectivity is that “individuals will be able to apply for jobs on-line.” The 4th industrial revolution and 5G deployment are portrayed as a solution,32 rather than a possible force multiplier, for increasing economic disparities and job loss. 33 Should social policy guarantee that economic restructuring will not disproportionately impact communities of color, or leave other marginalized groups behind?

Is The Wireless Industry and 5G Ambition Overrunning the Rights of Health –Vulnerable Populations, Including “Electrically Sensitive” Individuals and Those Suffering from Environmental Illnesses? Active Denial of Discrimination

Should the lack of accessibility to both public and private spaces for health-vulnerable populations, including the “electro-sensitive population” 34 continue to be ignored in most countries, 35 with uneven and/or lack of recognition and protections between nations of a disabling condition36 because industry scientists are controlling the science?

Should the industry have the final word on the question of whether or not deleterious health effects are linked to exposures?

Should the industry be allowed to cost-shift the burden of shielding, remediation, and health care expenses to the community, and to individuals who can afford it, leaving others with little or no support or ability to protect their own health?

Should the wireless and utility industries continue to override requests of physicians to protect patients from radio frequencies in order to protect their health?

Or is this the time in history when the paradigm must shift, where the possibilities for using radio frequencies and millimeter waves as a health treatment reach acceptance in the West,37 and the idea that wanton applications and exposures are inconsequential can finally be laid to rest.

The most alarming aspect of the question of international aggression and competition is that the Russians, who have just banned wifi and cellphones for distant learning,38 have had the superior science,39 40 41 and they have heeded it, and in doing so, they may be the only ones left standing, because they had the wisdom, like Nigeria42 and the Big Island of Hawaii,43 not to get involved in a contrived race to nowhere fast.

Part 3: The Science Divide, the Technocracy Divide to come



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4 AT&T claims a phone made in 2019 will stop working, urges users to upgrade


6 5G mobile phones: Expensive, exciting, and on the rise

7 Now, the need to expand the Internet infrastructure to accommodate rising demand for bandwidth threatens to perpetuate these digital divides. Yet, surveys also show that a small minority of Internet users account for the vast majority of this rising demand, through their extensive use of highly bandwidth-intensive content. Moreover, if ISPs are permitted to employ flexible pricing and network management strategies to focus most of the cost of the additional investment on these high-bandwidth users or on content providers whose content requires disproportionate use of bandwidth, our research finds that the digital divide will disappear: the simulations show that by 2018 or 2019, nearly 99 percent of white and minority households would still achieve broadband adoption if the bulk of the additional investment costs are borne by those who use the most bandwidth. These simulations assume that high-bandwidth users — heavy users of video, TV online, and online games — will be relatively insensitive to a higher price for their own broadband service. If those users are more sensitive to higher monthly fees than we assume, and the higher fees threaten to drive offline a significant share of these users, the cost of the additional infrastructure investments could be passed along instead to content providers who use inordinate bandwidth, and those providers in turn could pass along their additional costs in higher ad rates or website membership charges to the users of their services.

8 AT&T claims a phone made in 2019 will stop working, urges users to upgrade AT&T email about phone shutoffs was so confusing some users thought it was a scam.

AT&T is sending emails to customers warning them that their phones will stop working soon and that they should buy a new phone to continue getting data and voice service. But the email is misleading because these older phones will continue working on AT&T’s network until 2022, or another 18 months. Even worse, the AT&T email is going to some customers whose phones have the modern technology needed to continue working after the 2022 cutoff.

“We will soon be upgrading our network to use the latest technologies,” the AT&T email said, as shown in an article posted today by Android Police. “But your device… is not compatible with the new network and you need to continue to replace it to continue receiving service. Our team is here to help you find a compatible device that fits your needs.” The email advertises “free same-day delivery” for new phones.

The email links to an AT&T support page titled, “Get ready, 3G is going away in 2022.” The support page says AT&T is phasing out its 3G network by February 2022 and that “Once we do, 3G devices and 4G wireless devices that don’t support HD Voice will no longer work on our network.”



11 Investigate RI G.L. §39-32 for Victimizing Communities of Color in Providence, RI

Angel Lopez started this petition to RI Attorney General Peter Neronha and 3 others

RI General Law §39-32 enacted on 9/27/2017 has encouraged municipalities to transfer the ownership of telephone poles along with Public Rights of Way to private entities. The law allows the new owners of the telephone poles to regulate themselves forcing residents like me to approach any inquiry or complaint about the installation of questionable, invasive, and ugly devices with out the support of any State regulatory agency.

The new devices on the poles have increased the exposure of Radio Frequency Radiation to entire communities of color in Providence. The devices have been placed near our homes, schools, places of worship, bakeries, and the busy stores and restaurants. Most of the small wireless facilities (SWFs) installed become eye sores to residents along with the excessive wires left behind with out any quality control or inspection standards.

We demand a thorough investigation into the impacts RI G.L. §39-32 has caused on entire populations of people of color in Providence, especially those within the 02909 zip code. This includes an audit of state and municipal budgets and impacts on our health. We did not consent to have our bodies used for the technological development of the Internet of Things and SWFs.







17 AARP Pennsylvania today testified at a hearing of the PA House of Representatives Consumer Affairs Committee to support HB 1417, that will protect landline telephone service for consumers in the state’s rural communities by extending funding for the Universal Service Fund until the end of 2021.

18 Why You Shouldn’t Drop Your Landline Just Yet

Cellular and Internet-based phone service can delay first responders

19 California requires back-up power for cell towers, after wildfire evacuation alerts failed


21 Firefighters Vote To Suspend Cell Tower Construction on Fire Stations
In August 2004, the International Association of Fire Fighters voiced its opinion on cell phone towers and antennas by passing a resolution at its annual assembly opposing the installation of cell phone antennas on or near fire stations until a credible study could be done to establish safety.

The union’s Health and Safety Department completed their review of the available science in April 2005. They concluded that there is sufficient evidence to oppose any installation of cell phone antennas on fire stations. This conclusion was supported by a position paper citing 49 references and 40 citations. Some of the effects experienced by fire fighters due to this exposure included vertigo, lack of focus, severe headaches, sleep deprivation, depression, slowed reaction times and tremors. (64)

International Association of Fire Fighters 2004 Convention, Boston, MA. August 17, 2004. Resolution No. 15.







28 South Africa permits telecoms to erect a 5G tower on private property apparently even without approval by or compensation to the property owner. New government policy will let mobile networks build a 5G tower on your property . The policy aims to accommodate the accelerated deployment of electronic communications networks, such as LTE and 5G networks. The policy gives mobile networks and other licensees the right to select, enter, and use public or private land for the deployment of their network infrastructure. Any infrastructure built on this land would belong to the network which built it, and property owners are directed to avoid damage to the facilities built on their property.”


30 Europe proposes no planning permission obligations for small cells


32 5G rollout could create up to 3 million jobs and add $500 billion to GDP

33, 34 A new study from France (Greco 2020) was just published on June 24, 2020, presenting evidence of statistically significant differences in blood flow in the brains of EHS patients compared to non-EHS patients. EHS stands for electrohypersensitivity, a functional impairment experienced by those who react to the effects of electromagnetic fields and/or wireless radiation with headaches and neurological symptoms such as insomnia and inability to concentrate, cardiovascular symptoms, tinnitus, allergic reactions and other immunological problems, fatigue, nosebleeds, and/or skin rashes. Microwave sickness is a subset of EHS, and refers to these reactions when they are caused by chronic wireless radiation exposure. Per Merriam Webster:

Microwave Sickness: a condition of impaired health reported especially in the Russian medical literature that is characterized by headaches, anxiety, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating and by changes in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems and that is held to be caused by prolonged exposure to low-intensity microwave radiation.

The 2014 DeLuca study found statistically significant genetic and metabolic differences between EHS and non-EHS and reduced levels of glutathione and impaired detoxification ability in EHS, further evidence of EHS as a medical condition.

In addition, risk of EHS development was increased 9.7 times in individuals who are missing two genes GSTM1 and GSTT1, which are glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzymes that detoxify by conjugation with glutathione

Fragopoulou et al 2018 found a marker and mechanism for EHS/wireless health effects , i.e. the RF exposure increases permeability in cell membranes by changing the phospholipid composition.



36 For example, France required its utility to remove the Linky smart meter from some homes in recognition that is was threatening to individual health conditions In the United States, a customer in Massachusetts had her household water supply shut off, despite 3 physicians stating that the radio frequency-emitting water meter was a threat to a very serious health condition. This action interferes with her ability to follow medical guidance regarding the covid epidemic, including hand washing.



39 Devyatkov N. Effect of electromagnetic radiation of a millimeter wavelength range on biological objects. Sov. Phys. Uspekhi. 1974;16:568. doi: 10.1070/PU1974v016n04ABEH005308. – DOI

40 Devyatkov N.D., Golant M.B., Betsky O.V. Millimeter Waves and Their Role in Vital Processes. Radio and Svyaz; Moscow, Russia: 1991.

41 120 pages download with lots of references, released by the CIA

42 5G: Senate asks FG to suspend deployment of 5G network in Nigeria – Vanguard, 5th May 2020

‘Sen. Uche Ekwunife…said there were further concerns by some scientists and medical experts that emission from 5G towers could adversely affect the health of citizens by causing symptoms like damage to the eyes and immune systems, among other adverse effects’


Patricia Burke works with activists across the country and internationally calling for new biologically-based microwave radio frequency exposure limits. .

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