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Will 5G Kill Me? When Telecom Politics Become a Deadly Sin
United Kingdom Created: 9 May 2022
5G is undeniably the talk of the moment, much more in the business corridors and governmental strategies, than in the telecom community. This does not come as a surprise since 5G with its promising capabilities paves the way to a myriad of new business use cases and digital transformation opportunities.

5G and the trend in wireless network evolution in general, have a dark side to it: HEALTH!! This is probably the least discussed topic in wireless networks. In all honesty, why would someone bring a topic to the limelight if it will affect the adoption of the associated technology and stir unnecessary controversy.

The short episoAde that associated 5G with coronavirus was theatrical, but rather illustrated what effect even a myth could have on the telecom industry. During the most stressful period of the pandemic when thousands of casualties were counted each day, a group of people started burning 5G cell towers linking radiation to the spread of coronavirus. According to the groups involved, 5G radiations would weaken the immunity system making it more prone to the effects of the virus. Other theories have link the 5G network to virus transmission.

Clearly “radiophobia” shouldn’t be taken to that extreme. 5G and the associated radio frequency radiations are far from being the biological weapons which will spread the virus and exterminate humanity. What this short episode teaches us though is that the effects of beyond 5G networks should be taken more seriously, and “objective” medical studies should be conducted in “full transparency” and communicated to the public.
Back to Basics: What Are Telecom Tower Radiations?

The connectivity provided by wireless networks is mainly due to electromagnetic waves emanating from antennas distributed over transmission towers and other cell sites. The frequency at which the energy is radiating from these antennas is known as the radio frequency. Radio frequencies used for communication systems go all the way to 300 GHz, just below the infrared/visible light spectrum. As the frequency of usage is higher, it will become more difficult for the signal to reach the user without increasing the power with which it is transmitted. The reason is that it can be easily blocked by obstacles and attenuated by the environment. As a consequence, more transmission stations are to be used or a much larger transmission power from existing ones.

The capabilities of the 5G and next generation wireless networks come from improvements on different fronts, mainly from a technical nature. One prominent feature however is the increasing use of higher frequencies. To put it in simple terms, accommodating a higher number of mobile users while satisfying their needs in terms of extremely high data rates and low delays requires a higher bandwidth; and this bandwidth is not possible without going to higher frequencies. It is in fact this simple equation that reinvigorated the discussion on the harmful effects of electromagnetic radiations.
Are Telecom Tower Radiations Dangerous?

Radio frequencies in general belong to the class of non-ionizing radiations. This type of radiation does not cause changes at the atom level, that is, the energy is not enough to remove electrons from atoms, thus producing charged ions. On the other hand, ionizing radiations including far ultraviolet light and X-rays have the capabilities of ionizing existing molecules. The common consensus is that non-ionizing radiation has mild effects such as increasing skin temperature which may induce sunburn at most. Some other radiations such as ultraviolet A (UV-A) may cause melanoma. Ionizing radiation is mostly carcinogenic, that is, it may cause several types of cancer after a relatively long exposure. Most health groups and commissions have deemed that radiations from telecom towers as not dangerous mainly because the thermal effects do not cause any harm to the human body (at least a scientifically confirmed harm). However, little attention is given to the non-thermal potential effects of these radiations such as DNA, protein, or cell damage.
So What is the Problem with 5G?

The dilemma regarding harmful effects of non-ionizing radiation is not new. It dates back to the 2G era, the fabled GSM system. However, the network was largely made of dispersed cell towers covering large areas. Subscribers were not even close to transmission entities as antennas were usually mounted on building rooftops. As standards evolved, cell sites have been getting closer to the subscribers to ensure proper capacity and coverage. 5G is the pinnacle of wireless standards with an expected relatively dense deployment of street-level cell sites at close proximity of mobile users. The projected addition of higher frequencies to the 5G palette makes things even worse.

The divergence of opinions in the medical circles regarding 5G radiation have even emerged to the public. The conclusions that non-ionizing radiation is in general not harmful have been contested by many scientists worldwide. These scientists claim that this type of radiation is carcinogenic, although not to the extent of ionizing one. Several cases of glioma, the typical form of brain cancer, have been attributed to non-ionizing radiation. In a report dating back to 2011, the international agency for research on cancer (IARC) has called to classify radio frequencies as potentially carcinogenic (a class denoted as 2B). A “5G Appeal” was even established in Europe in 2017 calling countries to halt the roll-out of 5G networks until a scientific confirmation of its harmless effects. An increasing number of scientists have been joining the appeal since then, calling for the moratorium of 5G.

Even if temporary exposure to non-ionizing radiation is not harmful, our constant presence in the electrosmog would certainly have more dangerous effects that need to be studied closely. The debate does not even end with 5G as future generations are already considering much higher frequencies for their operation.

Another factor is the increased power used for transmission. Cost-saving is one of top goals of operators around the world. To avoid the capital and operational expenditures resulting from the erection of new cell sites, some operators crank up the power on existing sites to extend their coverage range. This has an adverse effect on mobile subscribers who are unaware of this invisible threat.

Several researchers are studying the health effects of 5G deployment. Notably, a paper published in 2020demonstrates the effects of 5G deployment in significantly increasing the power density (power in watts per square meters) for an area in Texas, USA.
Telecom Politics, Outdated Standards, and Conflicts of Interest

To make matters worse, the dark alleys of the telecom industry largely contribute to this ongoing controversy. After all, the telecom sector is among the most profitable around the world. Any obstacle hindering the roll-out of new wireless technologies should be eliminated as soon as possible the limit the financial loss, notably for entities who invested in these technologies.

The main issue concerns institutions that define safe exposure limits to electromagnetic radiations. These include health organizations, in addition to specialized entities such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). Such commissions and organizations have made use of safety guidelines that date back to the 1990s, ignoring new research results that contradict their conclusions. Among others, they have maintained their stance regarding the thermal effects of non-ionizing radiations and have consequently kept their prescribed exposure limits loose. They have even resisted recognizing the adverse non-thermal effects of radio frequency radiation.

These loose thresholds would normally make most wireless networks which are deployed around the world, compliant with international standards. Surprisingly, the ICNIRP even increased the safe exposure power density from 10 Watts per square meters to 40 Watts per square meters. This gives additional flexibility for telecom operators to design their network at a lower cost. However, higher exposure limits are allowed and more subjects would probably fall victims of the technology evolution.

An article analyzing the performance of heath commissions, outlines several conflicts of interest among scientists responsible for the evaluation of the effects of non-ionizing radiation. For instance, several members of the ICNIRP, were also members of the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) and a dedicated group of the World Health Organization (WHO). The same article mentions the relation between Swiss scientists and governmental groups responsible for assessing the effects of 5G in addition to mobile operators. When political and economic considerations affect health-related assessments, the outcome normally lacks credibility. The guidelines of standardization bodies therefore cannot be trusted to have the clear picture regarding radiation-associated risks.

Radiations from telecom towers are essential for the operation of wireless communication systems. No technology such as 5G or Wi-Fi can even exist without these distributed cell sites equipped with transmitting antennas. However, from a health perspective, the telco domain looks pretty much unregulated. Non-ionizing radiations usually have limited implications on the user’s health, but open questions remain largely open: What is the safe exposure time to these radiations? What is the safe distance between a person and a transmitting antenna? What are safe transmission power levels? Why haven’t safety guidelines been updated for some time? Why are the opinions of some scientists been disregarded? Can telecom tower radiations clearly cause cancer or other devastating effects?

While there is no clear answer for these questions, there is one significant problem which is controversy and lack of transparency. People have the right to have a definitive answer regarding the effects of wireless technologies on their health, and they have the right to know that before the mass rollout of such technologies.
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Source: Inside Telecom, Ahmad El Hajj, 04 May 2022

Legal: Can I refuse to host a 5G mast on my land?
United Kingdom Created: 15 Apr 2022
Q: I am paid to have a mobile phone mast on my land. I’ve been asked to host a 5G mast for a measly extra sum - What are my rights?

A: Two legal regimes apply to phone masts on private land. The first is any existing agreement allowing operators to use land. This is usually a long lease of the site, which will probably be a business tenancy under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. If operators ask for permission to upgrade to 5G, landlords generally can’t refuse permission without reasonable grounds. Rents may be subject to review, and tenants are generally entitled to new leases when their old ones expire.
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Source: The Times, Mark Loveday, 15 Apr 2022

Man claims £10,000 knocked off price of his flat after phone mast put up
United Kingdom Created: 9 Apr 2022
An angry homeowner has claimed a mast was erected outside of his property without notice, depreciating its value.

Brian Swanson, 61, has owned the house in Wolverhampton for 15 years and planned to move into it once he had retired.

He discovered the mast when visiting the property to do maintenance checks, and found it was blocking the view of a nearby park.

‘I was livid to tell you the truth. Nobody wants to see a great big mast with a box at the side,’ he told Bimingham Live.

‘There are plenty of parklands there where it could have been hidden.’

Mr Swanson claims he did not receive a letter from the council notifying him the pole was to be erected, although admits he was told there was a ‘notice put on a lamppost’.

The City of Wolverhampton Council said telecommunication network Three UK was responsible for the mast, adding the council had ‘limited control’ over the installations of such things.

A spokesperson said: ‘We placed site notices at the location on August 3, 2021 inviting comments about the planned mast and also included the proposal on our website. No objections or comments were received in this case.’

Mr Swanson wanted to make the house, which he currently rents out, a permanent home with his partner in the future but that is now hanging in the balance due to a fallout over the pole.

He now faces the option of selling the property for ‘thousands less’ than it is supposedly worth.

‘It has spoilt it now – I’ve considered selling it and think I could lose money. [The mast] has definitely reduced the value,’ he said.

‘I know that I wouldn’t buy a home with a huge mast straight in front of the window. I want to get a valuation but I would say it’s knocked off about £10,000.

‘My partner was going to move into the flat with me but there’s no way she’d live near a mast. She won’t even use a mobile phone, she’s that paranoid.’

He insisted the long-term effects of living close to a mast were unknown, adding it may be possible to ‘get brain damage from the waves’.

There is no strong proof 5G is harmful to health with numerous studies showing this, including from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Public Health England and the UK Health Protection Agency.

Cancer Research UK says there is no good evidence that 5G mobile phones increase cancer risk as ‘they still don’t have enough energy to damage DNA to cause cancer’.

A Three spokesperson said: ‘5G rollout is vital for residents and businesses of Wolverhampton. We want to offer the community a reliable network experience and this site is critical to making that happen.

‘Masts need to be situated where people will be using the service and, in precise locations to ensure the widest breadth of coverage.

‘We carried out extensive searches and surveys to evaluate siting options before applying for planning permission on Patshull Avenue. Wolverhampton City Council granted planning permission in September 2021.’
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Source: METRO, Zaina Alibhai, 08 Apr 2022

Not smart but clever? The return of 'dumbphones'
United Kingdom Created: 7 Apr 2022
"If aliens came to earth they'd think that mobile phones are the superior species controlling human beings," he says. "And it's not going to stop, it's only going to get worse. Consumers are realising that something is wrong, and we want to offer an alternative."


Seventeen-year-old Robin West is an anomaly among her peers - she doesn't have a smartphone.

Instead of scrolling through apps like TikTok and Instagram all day, she uses a so-called "dumbphone".

These are basic handsets, or feature phones, with very limited functionality compared to say an iPhone. You can typically only make and receive calls and SMS text messages. And, if you are lucky - listen to radio and take very basic photos, but definitely not connect to the internet or apps.

These devices are similar to some of the first handsets that people bought back in the late 1990s.

Ms West's decision to ditch her former smartphone two years ago was a spur of the moment thing. While looking for a replacement handset in a second-hand shop she was lured by the low price of a "brick phone".

Her current handset, from French firm MobiWire, cost her just £8. And because it has no smartphone functionality she doesn't have an expensive monthly data bill to worry about.

"I didn't notice until I bought a brick phone how much a smartphone was taking over my life," she says. "I had a lot of social media apps on it, and I didn't get as much work done as I was always on my phone."

The Londoner adds that she doesn't think she'll ever buy another smartphone. "I'm happy with my brick - I don't think it limits me. I'm definitely more proactive."

Dumbphones are continuing to enjoy a revival. Google searches for them jumped by 89% between 2018 and 2021, according to a report by software firm SEMrush.

And while sales figures are hard to come by, one report said that global purchases of dumbphones were due to hit one billion units last year, up from 400 million in 2019. This compares to worldwide sales of 1.4 billion smart phones last year, following a 12.5% decline in 2020.

Meanwhile, a 2021 study by accountancy group Deloitte said that one in 10 mobile phone users in the UK had a dumbphone.

"It appears fashion, nostalgia, and them appearing in TikTok videos, have a part to play in the dumbphone revival," says Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at price comparison site "Many of us had a dumbphone as our first mobile phone, so it's natural that we feel a sense of nostalgia towards these classic handsets."

Mr Doku says it was the 2017 relaunch of Nokia's 3310 handset - first released in 2000, and one of the biggest-selling mobiles of all time - that really sparked the revival. "Nokia pushed the 3310 as an affordable alternative in a world full of high-spec mobiles."

He adds that while it's true that dumbphones can't compete with the latest premium Apple and Samsung models when it comes to performance or functionality, "they can outshine them in equally important areas such as battery life and durability".

Five years ago, Przemek Olejniczak, a psychologist, swapped his smartphone for a Nokia 3310, initially because of the longer-lasting battery. However, he soon realised that there were other benefits.

"Before I would always be stuck to the phone, checking anything and everything, browsing Facebook or the news, or other facts I didn't need to know," he says.

"Now I have more time for my family and me. A huge benefit is that I'm not addicted to liking, sharing, commenting, or describing my life to other people. Now I have more privacy."

However, Mr Olejniczak, who lives in the Polish city of Lodz, admits that initially the switch was challenging. "Before I'd be checking everything, such as buses and restaurants, on my smartphone [when travelling]. Now that is impossible, so I have learned to do all those things beforehand at home. I got used to it."

One maker of dumbphones is New York company Light Phone. Slightly more clever that the norm for such products, its handsets do allow users to listen to music and podcasts, and link by Bluetooth to headphones. Yet the firm pledges that its phones "will never have social media, clickbait news, email, an internet browser, or any other anxiety-inducing infinite feed".

The company says it recorded its strongest year for financial performance in 2021, with sales up 150% compared with 2020. This is despite its handsets being expensive for dumbphones - prices start at $99 (£75).

Light Phone co-founder, Kaiwei Tang, says the device was initially created to use as a secondary phone for people wanting to take a break from their smartphone for a weekend for example, but now half the firm's customers use it as their primary device.

"If aliens came to earth they'd think that mobile phones are the superior species controlling human beings," he says. "And it's not going to stop, it's only going to get worse. Consumers are realising that something is wrong, and we want to offer an alternative."

Mr Tang adds that, surprisingly, the firm's main customers are aged between 25 and 35. He says he was expecting buyers to be much older.

Tech expert, Prof Sandra Wachter, a senior research fellow in artificial intelligence at Oxford University, says it is understandable that some of us are looking for simpler mobile phones.

"One can reasonably say that nowadays a smart phone's ability to connect calls and send short messages is almost a side feature," she explains. "Your smart phone is your entertainment centre, your news generator, your navigation system, your diary, your dictionary, and your wallet."

She adds that smartphones always "want to grab your attention" with notifications, updates, and breaking news constantly disrupting your day. "This can keep you on edge, might even be agitating. It can be overwhelming."

Prof Wachter adds: "It makes sense that some of us are now looking for simpler technologies and think that dumbphones might offer a return to simpler times. It might leave more time to fully concentrate on a single task and engage with it more purposefully. It might even calm people down. Studies have shown that too much choice can create unhappiness and agitation."

Yet back in London, Robin West says that many people are bewildered by her choice of mobile. "Everyone thinks it's just a temporary thing. They're like: 'So when are you getting a smartphone? Are you getting one this week?'."
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Source: BBC News, Suzanne Bearne, 21 Mar 2022

Hundreds of objections to plans for 20m 'super-mast' in Clarkston 'thrown out'
United Kingdom Created: 4 Apr 2022
Residents concerns that the new telecomms site will tower over surrounding homes and create an 'industrialised look and feel' to the area have been dismissed by the council.

Hundreds of people have had their objections to plans to erect a 'super' telephone mast in Clarkston 'thrown out'.

The 20-metre high telecommunications pole is set to be positioned on Mearns Road - despite 328 locals signing a petition opposing plans and 50 objections being sent to the local authority.

Residents are worried that the new telecomms site, they describe as a super-mast, will tower over surrounding homes and create an 'industrialised look and feel' to the area.

A petition set up to oppose the plans reads: "The mast itself will be extremely unsightly, with exposed antenna and appliances protruding from the top of the tower.

"Two telecommunication masts have already been erected within a 30-metre radius of this recent application in the last several years, however, these are both much smaller than this new proposal, which will be two and a half times the height of a street lamp.

"This will tower over surrounding homes and further create an industrialised look and feel to this area, which is an important pocket of green space for the surrounding area and local children. Trees at the proposed site may need chopped back to accommodate this mast too. The application also proposes several equipment cabinets, which will almost completely obstruct the narrow pathway here."

One objector wrote: "I walk my dog to this green area regularly and enjoy watching the many birds that visit there. This will affect local wildlife if trees have to be cut back. It doesn't seem fair that we have to live with this towering monstrosity when we already house masts in this particular area.

"It will be placed next to a busy junction, on a main road, on a route that is used frequently by children walking to school. I understand that we need masts but is this really the best option for the residents of Clarkston or just the easiest option for the council."

Locals have described the proposed as a "monstrosity" and a "huge eyesore".

Another commenter said it would "affect the visual character of the area" and that "local residents are being unduly affected".

East Renfrewshire Council has said that the objections were considered when looking at the location for the mast.

A spokesperson said: “In line with the legislative planning framework, planning permission is not required for most mobile phone masts up to a height of 30 metres.

"A prior notification application does need to be submitted to the planning authority though, to allow the location and design of the proposals to be considered. A previous application by this provider was withdrawn given concerns raised about its position.

"This revised location on Mearns Road is considered acceptable and all representations received were considered as part of the assessment. Given the proposed structure is 20 metres in height, the guidance provided outlines that masts of this size should generally be acceptable.”
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Source: Glasgow Live, Holly Lennon, 28 Mar 2022

Competition authorities approve sale of Three's masts to Cellnex
United Kingdom Created: 10 Mar 2022
The UK competition watchdog has given its approval to the sale of 6,000 mobile sites owned by Three’s parent company CK Hutchison - provided new owner Cellnex dispenses with 1,000 of its own.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had been holding up the completion of a €10 billion deal covering six European markets, fearing that it would give Cellnex too strong a position in the passive infrastructure market following its purchase of Arqiva’s assets in 2020.

Transactions for CK Hutchison’s masts have already been approved in Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Sweden.
Cellnex Three mast sale

Specifically, the CMA feared Cellnex’s position would prevent the creation of an alternative infrastructure provider, strengthening Cellnex’s hand in negotiations with mobile operators. This situation, it argued, and would ultimately lead to higher prices and lower quality mobile service for consumers.

However, the CMA is satisfied that its concerns can be addressed if Cellnex sells any site that geographically overlaps with one it intends to purchase from CK Hutchison. Any buyer would need to be approved by the CMA.

“Our decision today helps protect competition in infrastructure that mobile phone operators rely on,” declared Richard Feasey, Chair of the independent Inquiry Group. “The sale of this significant package of assets will allow a major supplier to compete against Cellnex when mobile networks look to negotiate new contracts in future.

“This, in turn, stops the threat of higher prices or worse terms for the operators and their customers as a result of this deal.”

Cellnex leases out infrastructure such as towers to operators so they can install their active equipment such as antennas to power their services. Using a third-party provider means operators are spared the additional cost and burden of maintenance.

Rival operator BT-EE had also argued the deal would impact competition but Three and Cellnex claimed the merger would actually achieve the opposite effect. In their submission to the CMA, the two companies said the deal was “strongly pro-competitive” and reflected a wider trend in the industry for operators to spin off or sell their passive infrastructure to third parties in order to raise revenues for network construction.

Cellnex added the mobile market will benefit from its ability to offer third parties access to the masts and accelerate the rollout of 5G across the UK from all operators. Meanwhile, CK Hutchison said the deal will unlock vital funds for its own 5G rollout.
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Source: TechRadar, Steve McCaskill, 04 Mar 2022

More than 50 dogs - including one from Paw Patrol - join phone mast protest
United Kingdom Created: 10 Mar 2022
Scores of dogs became the latest group to stage a protest in Bristol at the weekend - after they came with their owners to campaign against a mobile phone mast being erected in their local park.

More than 50 dogs from in and around Knowle turned out for the protest in Redcatch Park against plans by two mobile phone companies to erect a 24 metre high phone mast in the middle of the greenspace.

The phone company say they need to replace a mast that had previously been on a local pub, and despite owning the park, Bristol City Council say the law on erecting phone masts is heavily weighted in the phone companies’ favour that the council could be taken to court if they don’t let the mast be erected.

The unusual protest happened on Saturday afternoon and was led by somebody dressed as Marshall from kids TV programme Paw Patrol.

The local residents said that as well as having an unsightly 24 metre high mast in the middle of a local park, the compound and associated equipment around it would take up a big part of the green open space at Redcatch Park.

"This is a beautiful park, but the mast will spoil it,” said Mabel, Chloe and Digby, who took part in the protest. “We love walking our dogs here and it will just spoil the open space for the dogs to run around freely in. We use the park every day and have so many happy memories here.”

Local residents have formed a group called Residents Against The Mast. It’s co-leader is Sian Ellis Thomas.

“It's estimated that over 100 dogs use this park on a regular basis, I certainly use it up to three times a day for my own dog Rachel,” she said. “It's such an important space shared by dogs, kids, wildlife and people of every stripe. It's a truly communal space and essential in so many ways to the wellbeing of all.”

The campaign is trying to get 3,500 signatures on an online petition by March 15 to present to Bristol City Council. Already there have been hundreds of letters of objection, but the plans to erect the temporary phone mast do not need planning permission.

Under fairly recent changes to the law made by the Government to speed up the roll-out of better mobile phone coverage, phone companies have an almost default permission to put up temporary masts.

Bristol City Council said their powers to stop the mast are limited. In a statement issued at the start of the campaign, a spokesperson for the council said the Electronics Communication Code legislation gave a lot of power to telecoms firms to install mobile phone masts where they decided there was a need.

"This is not a council scheme and relates to a process where the council as landowner has limited powers with which to oppose the temporary mast," he said.

"Despite being the landowner, there is legislation in place that limits council powers to prevent this type of work and allows telecoms operators to install their equipment (including masts) on a temporary basis.

"In this case, we have been approached by the telecoms provider to install a mast in order to prevent loss of service or network disruption following the impending loss of an existing site. In their proposal to the council, the provider has made it clear that they will seek a court order if needed to carry out this work. We continue to seek expert legal and telecoms advice and the telecoms operator has been asked to justify their use of these emergency powers," he added.

As residents in Ashton Gate found in November 2020, Government legislation effectively gives mobile phone companies almost automatic permission to erect temporary phone masts, unless there are strong objections from local council chiefs.

The mast is being proposed by Hutchison 3G and EE phone companies. A spokesperson for Walden Communications, the mobile phone mast installers, said the temporary mast is required in the area to boost mobile phone signals, after a mast was taken down from the site of a nearby former pub in Axminster Road.

A spokesperson for MNBL, the company behind the application, said: "The temporary site at Redcatch Park is to provide coverage following the loss of our permanent site which was housed at The Friendship Inn public house in Knowle.

"The building and land was acquired by developers and meant that we needed to vacate. This has resulted in a loss of coverage for both EE and Three customers.

"We do endeavour to find permanent solutions as quickly as possible but where circumstances prevail we work with the Local Planning Authorities to deploy temporary equipment so that the network services can be maintained, and those residents and businesses that rely upon EE and Three remain connected.

"We will continue to work closely with Bristol City Council and the Planning officers, as well as the Local Community during this process," they added.

Residents have until a deadline of March 7 to register objections to the proposal with Bristol City Council, with the matter being considered by an internal council committee, which could deny the phone companies a licence to erect the mast.

They could then go to court to appeal against that decision. “With the unprecedented amount of objection letters and the amount of publicity we have received for our campaign, we are hoping we are successful, but until that time, the fight goes on,” said Ms Ellis Thomas.

Campaigners are now planning to blitz local streets in Knowle, Totterdown and Bedminster with another 5,000 leaflets through letterboxes to add to the 5,000 already delivered.

The online petition against the mast has already gained 2,500 signatures, and the number of objection letters sent directly to the council is approaching 200.
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Source: Bristol Post, Tristan Cork, 28 Feb 2022

Phone mast proposals will put further pressure on landowners
United Kingdom Created: 2 Feb 2022
A new Bill is before Parliament which critics fear will accelerate downward pressure on mobile phone mast rents.

The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons on 26 January.

The government says the aim is to encourage faster and more collaborative negotiations for the installation and maintenance of telecoms equipment on private land.

But campaigners say the changes outlined by the Bill will make it harder for site owners to appeal against arbitrary rent cuts demanded by operators.

The Protect and Connect campaign group said mobile phone giants were holding site owners to ransom.

“Telecom companies who have just imposed price rises of close to 10% now want to pay site owners as little as £50 a year to host mobile phone masts.”

The main changes the Bill would make include:

New provisions to actively encourage alternative dispute resolution rather than legal proceedings where possible

Introducing a faster procedure to allow telecoms operators to get temporary rights to access and install infrastructure on land when an occupier is not responsive

Giving telecoms operators rights to automatically upgrade and share equipment that was installed before 2017

Changes to the terms for renewing certain types of telecoms agreements that were in place before December 2017.

Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser at the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV), said there was a concern that the government was seeking to change the basis of renewal rents on telecoms leases protected by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.

There were also changes proposed that would give operators the ability to ask for a new agreement while one was already in place, Mr Moody said, “which basically means no landowner would ever know where they stand, and that accelerates the process of how rents might move”.

While there was talk of better complaints procedures and operators being encouraged to find alternative means of dispute resolution, this would only work if the provisions had teeth, he warned.

“Our basic observation is that the more power an acquirer has, the worse they can behave. If they know that there will be checks, that would be an enormous improvement.”

MPs challenging Bill

Mr Moody said it was heartening that several backbenchers who took part in the Commons debate had been critical of the valuation provisions, the powers given to operators, and the behaviours of parties.

They were also anxious about dispute resolution.

He said that the irony of the situation was that mobile phone operators were benefitting less and less from the powers being given to them, because they had sold their masts to stand-alone companies.

“The mast owners get the benefit of the cheap rent from the landowner and then charge the mobile companies full rent, so the value is being taken from the landowner and passed to the mast owner.

“It is not getting to the people who provide the mobile phone service.”

Next steps

The Bill has now moved to the committee stage, where it will face further scrutiny.

The first sitting of the Public Bill Committee is expected to be on Tuesday 15 March, and the committee is scheduled to report by Tuesday 29 March.
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Source: Farmers Weekly, Isabel Davies, 01 Feb 2022

Bid for towering 5G mobile phone mast outside Black Country museum thrown out
United Kingdom Created: 2 Feb 2022
A BID for a 15-metre mobile phone mast which would have "overshadowed the entrance" to the Black Country Museum and affected views from the attraction has been thrown out.

An application for the towering 5G mast near the museum entrance on Tipton Road has been turned down by planners at Dudley Council after the museum objected to the proposal.

It said it would spoil the atmosphere that it creates for visitors.

The museum stated: "It will overshadow the museum entrance"

"It will prejudice views from the museum looking southwards.

"At 15metres high it will protrude above the skyline against the heritage assets impacting and prejudicing the atmosphere the museum portrays to visitors."

It also said cabinets at the base of the mast could affect the view onto Tipton Road for vehicles leaving the car park.

Planners at Dudley Council agreed that the mast would spoil the experience for visitors and turned down the application for prior approval.

They stated: "The proposed mast and its associated ancillary equipment by reason of its siting, excess height, and appearance, would if approved, be harmful to the adjacent heritage assets at the Black Country Living Museum and the locally distinctive character of the wider area.

"The proposal would be insensitive, unsympathetic and harmful to the significance of the heritage assets and would fail to protect and preserve their setting."

The bid from CK Hutchison Networks Ltd was for a 15-metre mast with six antennas and four equipment cabinets.

It was refused on January 31. The site is in the Castle and Priory ward.
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Source: Dudley News, Helen Attwood, 01 Feb 2022

The people deciding to ditch their smartphones
United Kingdom Created: 24 Jan 2022
In a world where many of us are glued to our smartphones, Dulcie Cowling is something of an anomaly - she has ditched hers.

The 36-year-old decided at the end of last year that getting rid of her handset would improve her mental health. So, over Christmas she told her family and friends that she was switching to an old Nokia phone that could only make and receive calls and text messages.

She recalls that one of the pivotal moments that led to her decision was a day at the park with her two boys, aged six and three: "I was on my mobile at a playground with the kids and I looked up and every single parent - there was up to 20 - were looking at their phones, just scrolling away," she says.

"I thought 'when did this happen?'. Everyone is missing out on real life. I don't think you get to your death bed and think you should have spent more time on Twitter, or reading articles online."

Ms Cowling, who is a creative director at London-based advertising agency Hell Yeah!, adds that the idea to abandon her smartphone had built up during the Covid lockdowns.

"I thought about how much of my life is spent looking at the phone and what else could I do. Being constantly connected to lots of services creates a lot of distractions, and is a lot for the brain to process."

She plans to use the time gained from quitting her smartphone to read and sleep more.

About nine out of 10 people in the UK now own a smartphone, a figure broadly replicated across the developed world. And we are glued to them - one recent study found that the average person spends 4.8 hours a day on their handset.

Yet for a small, but growing number of people, enough is enough.

Alex Dunedin binned his smartphone two years ago. "Culturally we have become addicted to these tools," says the educational researcher and technology expert. "They are blunting cognition and impeding productivity."

Mr Dunedin, who lives and works in Scotland, says another reason behind his decision was environmental concerns. "We are wasting exponential amounts of energy producing exponential amounts of CO2 emissions," he says.

He has become happier and more productive since he stopped using a smartphone, he says. Mr Dunedin doesn't even have an old-fashioned mobile phone or even a landline anymore. He is instead only electronically contactable via emails to his home computer.

"It has improved my life," he says. "My thoughts are freed up from constantly being cognitively connected to a machine that I need to feed with energy and money. I think that the danger of technologies is that they are emptying our lives."

Lynne Voyce, a 53-year-old teacher and writer from Birmingham, has moved in the opposite direction - she started using a smartphone again last August after a break of six years.

She says she was reluctantly compelled to buy one again due to having to deal with QR codes in restaurants, and so-called Covid passports, plus making it easier to keep in touch with one of her daughters who lives in Paris.

But she plans to give up it up again, if she can. "After the pandemic, and when Ella [her eldest daughter] isn't living abroad, I might try and give it up again. It sounds like an addiction, doesn't it?"

When Ms Voyce first abandoned her smartphone back in 2016 it was to help encourage her daughters to reduce the time they spent on their handsets.

"They were glued to their phones. I thought the only way to stop it was to get rid of my own phone. And it made all the difference.

"For example, we'd got to a restaurant, and they would no longer see me pick up my phone."

Not having a smartphone "took a lot of pressure off my brain" she says, "I didn't feel like I had to instantly answer things or be available when out".

Yet, while some worry about how much time they spend on their handset, for millions of others they are a godsend.

"More than ever, access to healthcare, education, social services and often to our friends and family is digital, and the smartphone is an essential lifeline for people," says a spokesperson for UK mobile network Vodafone.

"We also create resources to help people get the most from their tech, as well as to stay safe when they're online - that's hugely important."

However, Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist and author of The Phone Addiction Workbook, says there is a strong link between heavy device usage and relationship issues, quality of sleep, our ability to switch off and relax, and concentration levels.

"Many people have a constant drip feed of requests coming their way via their device, many with a false sense of urgency.

"They feel unable to lay boundaries down, with the result that they feel compelled to check their emails and messages last thing at night and first thing in the morning."

If getting rid of your smartphone seems too much but you are concerned that you spend too much time on it, there are other measures you can take to reduce your usage.

While it might initially seem counterintuitive, more apps are emerging to curtail mindless scrolling.

For example, Freedom lets you temporarily block apps and websites so you can focus more. And Off The Grid enables you to block off your phone for a certain time period.

Ms Burke says it would be useful if more people monitored how much time they spend on their smartphone. "Starting to realise exactly how much time you're frittering away each day on your phone can be a powerful wake-up call and catalyst for change."

She also advises carving out short periods when you have your phone switched off or left at home, and gradually increase the wait period till you check it again.

Finally, she recommends choosing an image or a word that represents what you would rather be doing - if only you had more time - as your phone's screensaver.

"Considering most of us check our phones 55 times per day and some of us even 100 times, this is a great visual reminder of a more valuable way to spend your precious time," she says.
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Source: BBC, Suzanne Bearne, 24 Jan 2022

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