It seems the great plans for magical microwaves have dropped out of the news, leaving many states with laws being used to deploy high powered small cells (antennas) in the right of ways of our homes and businesses. You may find that local authorities, point the finger at the state and federal, while the state and federal point their finger at the local authorities. And in the meantime they install more and more of these. I have seen the permits for what is being installed in my community and have seen permits for antennas that have unmitigated, unlawful and unnecessary power levels that can be harmful to life and property that are being installed without the proper horizontal and vertical setbacks.
First let me say that if your local authority does not have authority over the power levels and setbacks of these antennas, it is because they have not written their own ordinances to stay compliant and effective with respect to current law. The legal matters are complicated and they may not believe or even want to have the authority to protect the public, so if you take this issue up with them, be prepared.
What YOU can do is get a list of permit applications and be alert for what they plan that may effect you. I would also suggest you notify anyone else you see that may be placed in harms way. Be advised that it appears such information is being obscured to prevent you from getting this information so you may need to request and search for this information in numerous ways. You will probably find that there are conventional antenna applications that are made through the building department of your city or county. Those would be requested as “current applications for wireless telecommunication facilities”. Make an appointment to go see the list and bring a digital camera and photograph what you cannot easily get a copy of. It they give you a Covid excuse, they should send you the list. Depending on how big your area is, you may need to limit the request to any open permit that has not been finaled through inspection. These are the easy ones to find. They will likely be monopole towers and rooftop installations, either new or modifications. Get a list of them all. Then you will need to make further request for the permit application files for the ones of interest.
Then there are the Right-of-Way (ROW) permit applications. The ROW is the area, usually along the roadway, where utilities may be installed. Some states have decided to allow them to be used by the telecoms to install their facilities with special considerations for what they termed small cellular equipment. These are physically small antennas that were originally represented as being no more than around 60 watts of Effective Radiated Power (ERP) but are now actually being installed at around 10,000 – 30,000 watts of ERP. The laws here were at one time clear they could do that and then changes so they could not and then changed so that maybe they could if the state said so. Find out about these and protect you and yours.
Finding these permits is not straight-forward. There are city, county, state and federal ROW systems. The ROW for the antenna installation may be associated with other ROW for the power supply and there may also be a local Building Department permit for it. The Building Departments may or may not list these as Antenna permit applications and my try to process them as Electrical of other permits. They will pertain to the power supply and try to avoid including the actual antenna. This results in a variety of permitting defects that can be useful. You cannot actually permit the power supply to an antenna without involving telecom equipment that it connects to and what these Building Department permits are will at least be an antenna modification permit. Look for the RRU, which is a Remote Radio Unit, that is part of the antenna control system.
Finding the ROW permits is also challenging. You may have county, state and federal ROW in a city. Most of the worst installations would be on the smaller roads that are controlled by the municipalities. Some of these are right by peoples homes. So, when you are trying to get the Building Department records you may need to make it clear you also want to see these records, and get that list. Understand that it may be a separate information system. There is a lot of variation in how the county and municipal ROW records are organized and processed. To say there is a lack of transparency here is an understatement.
You may find the state ROW online and just need to find out how to search the system for the antenna installations. They will likely be called small cells. In Florida, these are online through the Florida Department of Transportation. Then you will need to find your local office and request to see any permitting files of interest.
Yes, get the lists. See if you are OK and warn others who are not. Then what? Fight or flight? Say you are on the list. You will first need the actual permitting files to identify the actual location. It is common to find that the addresses given on the permitting files are not correct. That also means you should check all locations within 1,000 feet of you, very carefully (get the file). You may be able to guess with the exact location and the specifications for the antenna, just how much trouble you may be in. If they are going to install 20,000 watts of ERP 30 feet from your home, I would suggest you make plans for flight while you fight. You can otherwise assess if you can mitigate your home. Immediately conduct a Need Test. Get a phone for the telecom installing the small cell and see how many bar are on the phone at the site and for 300-600 feet around it. (Note: Never advertise a need test.) If you get 3-4 bar, the installation is without need and you have grounds for a fight, even in states with the worst laws. As long as you can make a cell phone call with good quality, that connects and does not drop throughout the area, there really is no need for the installation under the Communications Act. So assess the Need on both those basis. Documenting the need is usually done by video and requires three people who will provide affidavits. You may also be able to get a power density survey, if you have the $.
For the fight you will need all the permitting files associated with the site. Your best reference for how to file a controversy with the FCC is Susan with Scientists for Wired Technology. She works by donation. Also contact My Street My Choice both links on my reference page. If the antenna is under 33 feet high and over 1,000 watts of ERP it is likely violating a lot of FCC rules. Even if it is over 33 feet high it can still violate them. NEPA is the main one. Filing a controversy is not necessarily a cure. The FCC is considered a captured agency. However, I think this is the best way to notify all parties you do not consent and WHY, short of getting an attorney and taking them to court. Some places have tried Cease and Desist notices and if you have disabilities, there are recourse through ADA so find out more, but we will not address these here.
If you are getting an attorney to fight, the best is considered Andrew J Campanelli out of New York. He is online so you can get a lot of his advise for free at various safe tech websites. Your chances of stopping an install are way better than getting one removed.
If you do have one installed near you, you should get a meter and check your exposures. Most of the permits I have seen are powered up on low and mid band so the waves travel. If you can site the source within 2,000 feet, you should check your exposures. Or if you are within 1,000 feet sited or not. See the Three Things page for what you can do.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I monitor the blog weekly.