Health concerns don’t matter, say feds, when it comes to regulating 5G installations


Neil Zolot /

Published April 5th, 2021

City officials are imposing some conditions on Verizon on installations of 5G telecommunications equipment on utility poles around the city, but will be required to approve the vast majority of the 44 applications, most of which are in Medford Square, South Medford and the Hillside area.

After hours of public testimony on the matter during a video-conference meeting Wednesday, March 31, the Ad Hoc Small Cell Committee decided to hold off on dealing with each application until April 8.

“Federal law is very strong; it prohibits municipalities, when acting as a regulatory authority, from effectively prohibiting wireless telecommunications,” Robin Stein of legal consultant KP Law told the board. “You can’t deny based on health considerations. Federal law is explicit that you can’t consider health and environmental concerns. You can impose a condition so long as that is not going to effectively prohibit their ability to install the facility and provide wireless service.”

Her advice confirmed statements made by Verizon legal representative Michael Giaimo of Robinson and Cole that the applications were “not inconsistent with federal law” and “municipalities may not decide based on health concerns.”

Some of the conditions will probably be compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, setbacks, prohibition of detectable noise, keeping the equipment in good order, prohibiting double poling and holding Verizon financially responsible for costs in preparing poles for installations and costs related to lighting.

Small Cell Committee Chairman and City Engineer Tim McGovern pressed for an annual maintenance schedule, to which Giaimo responded, “I don’t think we’re going to want to do that.”

He also mentioned an internal malfunction detection system. Small Cell Committee member and Director of Community Development & Energy and Environment Alicia Hunt conceded, “We’ll just have to trust it works.”

The idea of shrouding the installation was brought up. Giaimo said Verizon would ask for a waiver on that because shrouds negatively affect the system.

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