Can Bellingham Expand Into New Internet Options?

by Leslie Shankman

We have been sequestered with our technology and the relationship has deepened. And thus, the ad that flashes on my screen has timely relevance:

“… T-Mobile’s commitment to building the world’s best broad and deep nationwide 5G network, which will bring lightning-fast speeds to urban areas and underserved rural communities alike, is more critical than ever, as reliable connectivity has become so important to Americans.”

Yes, we do want our technology and all that it brings! But we stand at a critical juncture in deciding how this technology is delivered to us. The ads sound great, so why should anyone be against the rollout of 5G technology?

Pulling back the cover on a little history brings to light an inconvenient truth. The following tale is an abbreviated recap of an investigation published by The Nation in March 2018. (1)

In 1993 Tom Wheeler (who would go on to be the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 2013-2017) was the president of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA). As such, Wheeler was the wireless industry’s point man in Washington.

The Beginning of Cell Phones
Cell phones had been allowed into the United States consumer market in the early 1980s without any testing. In 1993, there were only six cell phone subscriptions for every 100 adults in the United States, and Wheeler was poised to rocket this market. As he was about to launch, several cell phone customers and industry workers were diagnosed with cancer. A husband sued his wife’s cellular company, blaming them for her brain cancer and death, and, after he appeared on TV, the story went viral. A congressional subcommittee announced an investigation and investors began to dump their cell phone stocks.

This is when Wheeler jumped into action, announcing that his company would pay for a comprehensive research program. He told reporters that cell phones were already safe and his new research, “would simply validate the findings of the existing studies.”

Wheeler hired scientist George Carlo, who was an epidemiologist with a law degree and who had conducted studies for other controversial industries. But $28.5 million later, after conducting numerous studies through the Wireless Technology Research project (WTR), Carlo sent a letter to cell phone industry leaders on October 7, 1999, saying that WTR’s research had found the following:

“The risk of rare neuro-epithelial tumors on the outside of the brain was more than doubled … in cell phone users.” There was an apparent “correlation between brain tumors occurring on the right side of the head and the use of the phone on the right side of the head” and “the ability of radiation from a phone’s antenna to cause functional genetic damage [was] definitely positive ….” (2)

Carlo urged the CEOs to do the right thing:

Give consumers “the information they need to make an informed judgment about how much of this unknown risk they wish to assume,” especially since some in the industry had “repeatedly and falsely claimed that wireless phones are safe for all consumers, including children.” (3)

In response to this unwelcome conclusion, Wheeler trashed Carlo in many ways and so began the telecom’s long campaign to make people believe that cell phones are safe. It has worked. The smartphone market was valued at USD $714.96 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD $1,351.8 billion by 2025. (4)

The investigation done by The Nation concluded that:

“The wireless industry not only made the same moral choices that the tobacco and fossil-fuel industries did; it also borrowed from the same public-relations playbook those industries pioneered. The playbook’s key insight is that an industry doesn’t have to win the scientific argument about safety; it only has to keep the argument going. That amounts to a win for the industry, because the apparent lack of certainty helps to reassure customers, even as it fends off government regulations and lawsuits that might pinch profits.” (5)

Internet of Things Is Emerging
And now, despite the massive increase in radiation exposure that will be added to nature’s already EMF- (electro-magnetic frequency) saturated ecosystem, the wireless industry is determined to bring about the Internet of Things, a mechanistic ecosystem of many connected smart devices.

So, claims The Nation investigation, like the rollout of cell phones done without clear and honest sharing of safety concerns, this next iteration of technology is being introduced with the same tactic of “keeping the argument going” concerning the efficacy of existing scientific studies. And, by now, in 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a long-captured agency essentially working for telecoms, not for the people. (6) For more on this see, “Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission Is Dominated by the Industries It Presumably Regulates” by Norm Alster. (7)

The rollout of 5G has had one positive consequence. That is, the thousands of studies (8) that have been done over the last two decades correlating the existing 3G and 4G electromagnetic frequencies to human and environmental harm and disease are starting to be more widely noticed and taken seriously.

Credible groups such as Americans for Responsible Technology (9) have formed to counter the unchecked march of the telecoms. 5G Crisis (10) is the action arm of this organization. Both efforts have excellent websites offering solid scientific studies, narrative explanations, sample letters and verbiage for written or spoken communication, and educational materials to share.

Every Tuesday, 5G Crisis sends out suggested actions to a massive email list, which anyone can join. I was recently on a Zoom call with the 5G Crisis organizers that was designed to focus on tips for forming local action groups. About 275 people showed up from around the country.

Irregulators Win
If you are one who is concerned about the safety of 5G and EMFs, I learned something that should be really exciting. Can we make it exciting? Much of this 5G Crisis call was about the work of a group called the Irregulators (11) and the implications of a court case they won in March 2020.

The Irregulators are an independent telecom team comprised of senior telecom experts, analysts, forensic auditors, and lawyers. They are former senior staffers from the FCC, state advocate and Attorneys General Office experts and lawyers, as well as former telco consultants. They have been working together, in different configurations since 1999. And, they have mapped a pathway to restore the Internet to the human-friendly, benevolent ideals that it started with. They are not afraid to call out the corruption of those who have hijacked it. (12)

In creating their campaign together with community and elected officials, the Irregulators identify the need and responsibility that we the people have to go beyond “just being against 5G” and to include the solution:

“We’ve got to give them an alternative. Fiber to the home on an open, interoperable Net Neutrality network. Preferably one that’s community owned.” (13)

Three court cases filed against the FCC have been decided in ways that effectively give back some powers, lost under FCC regulations, to state and local authorities. In different ways, each case limits the FCC’s ability to completely preempt a state’s rights regarding local regulation or action over Internet and wireless service. (13)

The third case, IRREGULATORS vs. FCC: DC Court of Appeals Opinion, March 13, 2020, can apparently be the real game changer if state and local officials seize the opportunity to act on it. (14) The Irregulators call this win the third leg of a stool that now brings us into: Phase 2, “A time for action.” (15)

In the most basic terms, this third pivotal lawsuit pulled the cover off a massive shell game that has hidden the fact that up to a half a trillion dollars that should have been used for the development of a fiber-optic network across the nation was misappropriated in many ways. Monies that should have created the most reliable, safe and long-lasting cabling to provide seamless Internet services beneficial to individuals, educational institutions and businesses has been misused for decades. The suit revealed lists of misappropriated funds used for corporate perks, such as private jets and travel, as well as monies directed to develop alternative wireless services, including 5G equipment and installation. Accounting was done to show big losses that were then offset by huge tax breaks. (16)

Corruption Uncovered
For some background, in 2010, the Irregulators uncovered what appeared to be a massive cross-subsidy scheme where Verizon New York, a state utility, was acting as a cash machine for Verizon’s other lines of business, including Verizon Wireless. Instead of upgrading the cities with fiber, much of the work was now moving to wireless — but much of this was being charged to local phone customers via Title II. (17)

The Irregulators brought this suit because, by 2016, their work revealed that America’s households and businesses had been overcharged at least nine times for broadband/fiber-optic services, including the wiring of schools, libraries, and hospitals — about $4000-$7000 per household, and the total was way over one-half trillion dollars by 2016. (18)

A free e-book, “The Book of Broken Promises,” by Bruce Kushnick, is available for download from their website. This is the third book in a trilogy that started in 1998. It proves that few, especially the FCC, have a clue about the factual history of broadband, much less fiber-optic deployments in America that customers paid for. (19)

The magnitude of what our nation has consequently lost is poignantly underscored and well-illustrated by an excerpt from a New York Times article written way back in 2014:

“While there are few ‘fiber to the home’ locations, and they are not exactly metropolitan, tech-savvy entrepreneurs and individuals are flocking to them. They are pulling up stakes and moving to places like Lafayette, La.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Wilson, N.C.; and Mount Vernon, Wash.

“These digital carpetbaggers aren’t just leaving behind jittery Netflix streams and aggravating waits for Twitter feeds to refresh. They are positioning themselves to be more globally competitive and connected.

“Optical fiber most often called just ‘fiber,’ allows upload and download speeds about 100 times faster than what is typically offered in the United States. Web pages load instantly. Video and sound are more realistic. And giant amounts of data can be transferred at the speed of light.

‘Most people don’t really get it yet,’ said Synthia Payne, who moved from Denver to Kansas City, Kan., for a $70-a-month Google Fiber connection. She needed superfast broadband to develop an app called Cyberjammer that allows musicians around the world to jam online and in real time. ‘People just haven’t conceived of what fiber will mean and how it will change the way we live and work,’ she said. It’s sort of like when homes were fi.rst wired for electricity. Back then few could imagine it would be good for much more than lighting

‘I just returned from Stockholm where fiber connections are cheap and as available as running water,’ said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and author of ‘Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.’ As a result, she said, developers there have ‘a digital sandbox to play in,’ which means they are more likely to develop the next generation of software and hardware. [Note: Susan Crawford also wrote “Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution — and Why America Might Miss It.” A copy is available in the Bellingham Public Library.]

“The United States ranks in 14th place behind countries like Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Romania and Macau in fiber connectivity. For a comparison, Oolkla’s Net Index shows Internet speeds by city worldwide. The fastest are in countries where the government has paid for fiber upgrades. But in the United States it has been left to cable and telecom companies, which have been slow to make the investment.” (20)

A Digital Divide
As a further extension of this monetary misappropriation, the Irregulators say that the telecoms used the lack of development of reliable Internet service in rural areas to create the argument that wireless services are necessary to address the “digital divide.” The “digital divide” is a term used to denote that less economically viable rural communities cannot, by the circumstance of existing across large distances, obtain the same level of service that can be provided to more populous areas.

And thus, the Irregulators also pose the question: Has the manipulated creation of the “digital divide” (by misappropriating and misusing the monies meant for building a robust national fiber-optic network) been used as an excuse to restructure America’s communications policies, used as an argument to help these companies against the public interest? (21)

So, we find ourselves with the aggressive 5G wireless rollout fully endorsed and supported by the FCC. We have the telecoms lobbying for wireless to the point that municipal broadband has been outright banned or thwarted by state law in many states. (22)

Cities and States Can Act
Based on the recent court opinion, the Irregulators feel that states and municipalities can now start being proactive in new ways. A detailed explanation of the Irregulator perspective can be found on their website. (23) But to highlight some of the potentialities listed there:

 States can claim billions for broadband development and can ask for refunds on communications bills.

 Billions in corporate operations overcharging can be halted. n Billions claimed as corporate tax losses can be halted.

 All subsidies to wireless can now be stopped by the states. n 5G is not profitable once   all the above are implemented.

 Billions in newfound cash can solve the digital divide.

 Cities can now build out their networks.

Actions by Citizens
From my efforts at an overview here, we can see that this is a very complex issue with competing interests at work. Yet, even if we cannot know and cannot keep up with all the nuances and technicalities, as the Irregulators point out, we as citizens can raise a consistent and loud voice. We can keep questioning and asking our state and local legislators to pay attention to this issue, to use their legal resources to address all the ramifications, and to work for our benefit. Our requests need to be two pronged. We need to advocate for a fiber-optic network, and we need to push back against 5G until definitive safety studies are done.

On a local level we can contact our Mayor and City Council and ask:

1. That city attorneys investigate the ramifications of the recent Irregulator win.

2. That city attorneys engage with state legal teams and ask for support and action with regard to the Irregular claims.

3. That city attorneys use the resources and contacts offered by Americans for Responsible Technology, 5G Crisis, and other worthy organizations established to help with these issues.

4. That city attorneys investigate the actions of other municipalities saying “no” to small cell installations on the grounds of aesthetics and loss of property value. In the 5G Crisis call cited earlier, the discussion pointed out that this is being done by several municipalities on Long Island, N.Y. While the telecoms respond by saying that they will sue, these municipalities say, “So what.” In effect, a municipality stands in the middle of two potential suits related to 5G — from the telecoms for not complying or from neighborhoods for complying. This lack of compliance also creates delay. “Delay is our friend,” say the Irregulators.

5. That the city attorneys look into the response being taken by Western Springs, Ill. Western Springs has chosen to find reasons to continually reject the paperwork that telecoms must file for small cell permits.

6. That the Mayor and City Council ask our attorneys to establish a commission to study the health effects of 5G. This has been done by several states and can also be done on a municipal level. Sample language for establishing a 5G commission is in the “Tool Kit” of the 5G website. (24)

7. That the city be a voice in asking the state to also set up a commission.

8. That residents and businesses be informed of the extent of the existing fiber-optic network in Bellingham, and that a plan be developed for expansion.

9. That the city identify and lease existing fiber connections under an open access policy to businesses and residences where they do exist and are connectable now.

10. That expanding the fiber network become a city priority and that it be offered under an open access policy with leases granted to many entities such as co-ops and nonprofits rather than be limited to select providers. (Mt. Vernon, Wash., has done this. See:

11. That the new city Climate Energy Manager, Seth Vidana, be asked to research the anticipated climate effects of 5G and include this consideration in the metrics being developed by the Climate Action Task Force. We need to understand that the good work and intentions of the task force accomplished to date are meaningless if 5G technology is installed. The satellite launches and electricity requirements for maintaining a 5G network can raise the temperature of the planet, despite ameliorating carbon effects with local measures like reducing use of natural gas. Fiber is not only the most reliable connection, but it is also the most environmentally friendly, using the least amount of power of any connection type. (25)

                                       How to Obtain Public Records
In addition, on a local level, we can all stay informed of 5G small cell installations by filing a request for Public Records. To do so, go to:


2. Choose “Submit a Request” then “City of Bellingham.”

3. Login again if necessary. Or create your account on the Login page.

4. Choose the departments you want. Make sure you choose Public Works, Planning Department, City Attorney and IT, at least.

5. Request all records of wireless equipment installation, including permits for small cells and fiber-optic leases.

Washington for Safe Technology
A small group of Bellingham citizens who are concerned about the ramifications of xpanded EMF exposure from 5G have developed a website that is designed to offer a platform for any community in Washington to join. We need to grow not only a Bellingham voice, but a Washington state voice and response. The website:

Please look at the information on this Washington for Safe Technology website and please share it. Encourage friends in other communities to write-in, using the comment section. This will allow us to highlight efforts being made around the state and may serve to encourage and cross-train ourselves by sharing experiences. And, if you would like to be on an email list for local alerts, send your request with your locale and email address via the comment section.

The vulnerabilities of not being connected with solid technology are sorely evident now with the Covid-19 virus. Had our governments taken the road of installing fiber-optic networks, schools and businesses would be able to stay connected in real and meaningful ways.

Note that when Governor Inslee announced the closing of schools for the year, he said,

“We are working with our Internet providers and software leaders in our state, and other private sector partners to connect our students and educators … . We have partners … that are also helping us set up interconnected hotspots in urban and rural areas across the state. And we’re going to ask all those partners to step up to the plate, to the extent humanly possible, to get as many kids well connected as humanly possible in the state of Washington.” — Governor Jay Inslee, April 6, 2020. (26)

Setting up hotspots means that some students and educators who don’t have good connections at home will need to travel to sites and sit in cars (assuming the family has a car and a parent is available to do so) to connect. And, since hotspots mean shared bandwidth, connection quality and stability can be variable.

What else can we do? We can make sure that we do not let the necessary first response being implemented now, that relies on unreliable wireless connections of questionable safety, be our last response. With this pandemic and the resulting inconveniences, we are seeing the need for a viable fiber-optic network in Bellingham and nationwide.

The corruption that has led us here is another kind of virus that has been infecting us for a long time. May we contain both viruses.

After this article was submitted, a podcast titled “The Big Telecom Swindle” was released. This is an interview with one of the Irregulators and provides further information about the considerations discussed in the article. To listen:

(1) (2) (3)


(5) (6)





(11) (12)

(13) (14) (15)

(16) (17) (18) (19)








Leslie Shankman has lived in Bellingham since 1993. She has worked in business, lived and worked at a yoga institute and assisted seniors with living and dying. Currently, she edits and writes. She became aware of the health effects of electromagnetic frequencies when a friend became debilitatingly ill from a new electrical installation on her property, forcing a move.


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