Tech companies begin installing 5G poles in New Orleans

Updated: Jan. 23, 2020 at 9:59 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - We live in a world where we are more connected than ever before. Our phones are never far away. Technology companies want faster connections, to do so, they say 5G is the answer.

"In order to make the system work they need many more towers," said Jonathan Rhodes, New Orleans Director of Utilities. "Many more of these smaller facilities than we had in the past."

Rhodes says to utilize 5G capabilities there needs to be hundreds of these black poles, called small cells, across the city.

“These towers need to be placed sort of block by block. So, what the company says make that digital handshake and each device can talk to each other.”

Preservationists want the city to limit where small cells are located.

"If the city and regulatory bodies don't work with these telecom companies to encourage co-locations which means that Verizon wants a pole, AT&T wants a pole, Sprint wants a pole. If they each put a pole there's going to be a pole everywhere," said Preservation Resource Center Executive Director, Danielle Del Sol.

Del Sol says the resource center is working with cellular companies and the city to try to make sure the 5G equipment matches the neighborhood's aesthetic.

"Our neighborhoods are historic and beautiful and to have giant metal poles popping up every few blocks is really a scary thing," said Del Sol.

Some people worry about potential health risks, but researchers say there isn't enough information yet.

“There’s been a lot of research and health agencies around the world have looked at the data and I don’t see any clear sign of a problem,” said University of Pennsylvania Bioengineer Professor Kenneth Foster. “A person’s largest exposure to cellphone radiation is when they use a cellphone, they stick the transmitter right to their head.”

Rhodes says the race to upgrade 5G needs to be a community effort.

“We need to know what residents are afraid of, what their concerns are, and what they are looking forward to,” Rhodes said.

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