In September, a small town outside of Silicon Valley, Mill Valley, banned 5G over health concerns. They joined several other Marin County municipalities in blocking 5G deployment. On any given Facebook post about the new technology, you’ll find at least one or two commenters insisting that 5G is a death sentence. There are flyers at bus-stops claiming the cell phone tech is a CIA plot. There’s even a petition on MoveOn.org urging President Donald Trump to ban 5G altogether.
According to a new report in the New York Times, these fears are not only unsubstantiated — Russia may be playing a role in proliferating them.
The Times reports that RT America — formerly known as Russia Today — the Russian government-funded news-cum-propaganda organization that is considered to be one of the main agitators behind Russian meddling in the 2016 election, recently aired a segment “linking 5G signals to brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors, and Alzheimer’s disease.”
This is part of a growing trend from RT: they ran only one anti-5G segment in 2018, so far this year they’ve run seven. Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin is publicly praising the Russian roll-out of 5G, according to the Times. So is RT warning Americans about an insidious new technology or is there something more sinister going on?
Part 1: What is 5G?
We wrote about what 5G is previously — when carriers first announced their 2019-2020 rollouts — but here’s a brief refresher.
As more and more items in our daily lives become connected to the internet thanks to the Internet of Things — think connectivity for physical products, like smart fridges and smart speakers — our current network is starting to become overloaded, so there’s a need for new technology that will support all the cell phones and IoT items in the world.
5G is the blanket term for the latest generation of mobile network technology. The core difference between 5G and 4G is speed: 5G is going to be much faster than our current phones, as much as 600 times faster, in fact. (That is, when the infrastructure is done being built. In the meantime, expect speeds 5-10 times faster than current 4G speeds.) Additionally, 5G technologies use a higher-frequency band than 4G, which means that 5G will work in high-activity areas.
That said, the technology is not without its problems: there’s a lack of security on the high-frequency technology. Additionally, as it operates at a higher frequency, its range is more limited than 4G — thus requiring more cell site equipment in order for it to work properly — and the Federal Communications Commission has restricted cities’ ability to regulate the 5G infrastructure roll-out.
Part 2: What are detractors saying about the technology? Are their concerns founded?
Well, the security of the network is definitely questionable, and that’s partially why Chinese telecomm giant Huawei has been banned from working on 5G infrastructure in several countries, including the U.S., citing concerns about hacking. But as for all the other stuff —cancer, mind-control, that sort of thing — no.
Let’s focus on the really big stuff: health concerns.
CLAIM: 5G technology will expose humans to dangerous levels of radiofrequency radiation.
First things first: the small cells upon which 5G relies actually release less radiation than current antennas in use. Second of all, radiofrequency radiation (RFR) is non-ionizing. Ionizing radiation, on the other hand, is the high-energy kind that is used in X-rays and nuclear technology. The latter type can alter molecules, break chemical bonds, and damage DNA, which could lead to cancer and other health issues. RFR radiation, on the other hand, is low-energy — even lower energy than other non-ionizing radiation like, uh, visible light.