FCC’s TCA 1996 25th Birthday Marks 25 Years of No Progress on Environmental and Health Protections

By Patricia Burke

On Feb. 8, Politico reported:

THEY SAY IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY: HAPPY 25TH, TELECOM ACT! — Today marks 25 years since President Bill Clinton signed into law the 1996 Telecommunications Act, aimed at expanding competition in the telecom space. Watch for a celebratory video going live at noon from acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel that’ll feature House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.); Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.); Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.); and other telecom leaders including Reed Hundt, Larry Irving, Susan Ness, Gloria Tristani and Rachelle Chong. — Connecting the past to the present, with the law that created E-Rate: Rosenworcel will use today’s anniversary to highlight her ambitions to revamp the FCC’s E-Rate program to support virtual learning. (The subsidy program helps provide discounted connectivity services to schools and libraries.) She will join Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) for a 2:30 p.m. Twitter chat — which you can follow using #TelecomActChat — on ways to use that program to tackle the so-called digital Homework Gap. “Right now I think we need ‘no child left offline,’” Rosenworcel said during a University of Virginia event on Thursday.

— The ’96 Act’s upsides: It was “the dawn of the revolution,” Markey told telecom lawyers last week during an event. “Because before that bill passed and was signed, no one in America had high-speed internet access.” The act “triggered paranoia-inducing Darwinian competition,” contended the senator, who helped usher through the overhaul during his House years.

Markey recently led more than 30 other Senate Democrats in urging Rosenworcel to unlock E-Rate subsidies for online learning. Separately, he and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) are today reintroducing the National Broadband Plan for the Future Act.

— Any points of contention? Housed within the ’96 law was Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the online liability shield that’s now the subject of bipartisan calls for reform. Still other critics argue a telecom rewrite is necessary due to the way the act regulates different types of communications services differently.[1]

Well, there are a few points of contention not featured in Politico’s reporting.

One point of contention is the massive amounts of money that have been paid to legislators like Ed Markey and Fred Upton over the years by the Telecom industry.

According to reporting from the Hill, Markey received nearly $950,000 in contributions from PACs affiliated with the telecom industry since 2004, more than a third of the donations he’s received from PACs overall.[2]  He’s been at this much longer than 2004, he helped draft the Telecom Act in 1996.

Upton’s financials, published by Open Secrets, are also concerning. [3]

And Who Didn’t Get Invited to the FCC’s Birthday Party?

But even more alarming is those of us who were not invited to the FCC’s birthday, where partiers continue to celebrate the freedoms and protections insured by the Section 704 of the Telecom Act of 1996.

The wireless industries, which are regulated by the FCC, have had a get-out-of-jail-free card since 1996 whereby communities and the public have not been able to protect human health and the environment from industry expansion, despite mounting evidence of harm.  Physician’s For Safe Technology is one organization not on the telecom payroll that explains the deleterious impact of the Telecom Act of 1996 on communities.

Physicians for Safe Technology | Telecommunications Act of 1996 (mdsafetech.org)

And, many points of contention are not only not being reported anywhere in the mainstream media, but are being actively censored, for example the work of Dr. Arazi of Phonegate, in France. [4]

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Also mostly missing is coverage of the lawsuit brought against the FCC, calling for a review of exposure limits, after the FCC seemingly ignored years of comments submitted to the agency.

“The American public has been poorly served by the FCC,” warned Robert Kennedy of Children’s Health Defense.  “The FCC’s guidelines are decades-old and are based on scientific assumptions that were proven false. Its failure and disregard of public health is evident in the growing and widespread conditions involving brain damage, learning disabilities, and a host of complex neurological syndromes.” He added: “The FCC has shown that its chief interest is protecting the telecom industry and maximizing its profits, and its position as put forward in its brief is simply indefensible.”

Environmental Health Trust reported:

In case you missed it, the Environmental Health Trust had its day in court. The truth was on our side and the federal judges asked excellent questions indicating that they read the scientific and policy evidence that EHT submitted to the FCC over the last decade, much of which is now being used as key evidence in this historic case.

Environmental Health Trust et al. v. FCC is an historic case aimed at getting the FCC to reconsider, revise, and update its 25-year-old exposure limits for radiofrequency radiation (RFR) from cell phones, cell towers, Wi-Fi networks, smart meters, and other wireless communication devices and facilities. Briefs were filed jointly with Children’s Health Defense. “I’m just going to be very upfront with why I am inclined to rule against you,” said Honorable Judge Robert L. Wilkins (a chemical engineer by training) during his questioning of FCC counsel Ashley S. Boizelle regarding the process the FCC and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) used to determine safety. “The problem that I have is that you say you’re relying on the expertise of the FDA but the entity that Congress specifically said to review this, this (radiofrequency interagency working group), you’ve given us no evidence that this committee has looked at any of this.”[5]

States Already Paid to Address the Digital Divide, But Even If They Hadn’t, Wireless is Not the Only Way

States already paid the telecom industry to install safer, more secure fiber to the premises. As reported by the Irregulators, in New York State, the digital divide didn’t actually demonstrate the need for more antennas and more wireless and more 5G.  It actually revealed that although customers already paid for internet access via safer, more secure fiber to the premises, that it was never provided. What the pandemic revealed  is systemic corruption and accounting fraud. [6]

Fast Antennas, A Fast Car, A Fast Robot, Fast Satellites, and Fast De-evolution

The Telecom industry and those on their payroll want to convince the public that the solution to all of humanity’s challenges is increased antenna densification and faster 5G, despite the fact that internet access and wireless connectivity are not the same thing.

The organic and slow food movements and emphasis on small scale farming is challenging the conventional farming paradigm.  Challenges are building to the chemical industry’s environmental and health damages, for example, with Monsanto’s use of glyphosate.

But it is not possible for a counterbalancing effort to address the wireless industry’s impact on the ecosystem, when the industry is being enabled to behave as a bad neighbor, by regulations like the Telecom Act of 1996 and OTARD,[7] and the media’s collusion with the industry. [8]

Property value is emerging as another significant concern as 5G antennas are being mounted proximal to homes in many areas.

Another concern not mentioned by Politico’s coverage of the FCC’s birthday is the plight of those who have already been made ill and/or disabled by microwave poisoning.[9]

If there are those in the industry with concerns about the abuses of power being foisted on the American Public, it is time for them to take control of the reins.

Wikipedia notes,

“Let them eat cake” is the traditional translation of the French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”, spoken in the 17th or 18th century by “a great princess” upon learning that the peasants had no bread.….The quotation is taken to reflect either the princess’s frivolous disregard for the starving peasants or her poor understanding of their plight.”

Whether frivolous disregard or poor understanding, the FCC and its economic partners are not up to the task of protecting anything other than industry interests.

In pursuit of real world solutions to real world issues, we are simply replacing one unsustainable and damaging paradigm (fossil fuels) with another (electrosmog).

If we are justifying wireless roll-outs based on sustainability and human rights concerns, for example with student access, then we must do the work to vet wireless applications for sustainability and human rights issues. This includes, for example, addressing internet addiction in children, child labor fueling conflict mineral mining, and e-waste exploitation in poorer countries.

Against the backdrop of the FCC’s intention “not to leave any child offline,” – no kidding. No one and no living being will be left behind by wireless pollution, if the industry and its regulators have their way.

We should be both horrified, and ready to step up to the plate….but not at the FCC’s party.


[1] https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-tech/2021/02/08/25-years-of-the-telecom-act-793230

[2] https://thehill.com/video/campaign/298471-markey-touts-telecom-work-in-first-general-election-ad#:~:text=Markey%20received%20nearly%20$950,000%20in%20contributions%20from%20PACs,of%20the%20donations%20he’s%20received%20from%20PACs%20overall.

[3] http://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/fred-upton/summary?cid=N00004133&cycle=CAREER

[4] Timepeace: Not A Race To 5G — A Race To Healing And Science Integrity (Part 2) (https://www.naturalblaze.com/2021/02/timepeace-not-a-race-to-5g-a-race-to-healing-and-science-integrity-part-2.html)

[5] https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Video-of-EHT-et-al—v–FCC-Hearing–Judge-Wilkins-to-the-FCC—I-Am-Inclined-to-Rule-Against-You—Court-Proceeeding-and-Press-.html?soid=1116515520935&aid=xuJWoATUUnY

[6] http://irregulators.org/

[7] https://www.bbklaw.com/news-events/insights/2021/legal-alerts/02/fcc-continues-to-undercut-local-authority-on-otard

[8] https://mdsafetech.org/problems/5g/

[9] https://wearetheevidence.org/

Patricia Burke works with activists across the country and internationally calling for new biologically-based microwave radio frequency exposure limits. She is based in Massachusetts and can be reached at [email protected].

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