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DIGGING DEEPER: 5G towers popping up across Tucson, City sends letter to State lawmakers

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The 5G generation is here. Some are very excited about it while others are worried about where the needed towers will go. 

Already, Tucson has several 5G towers in place. Locally, Verizon is the company that has installed 5G, making Tucson one of more than 60 cities the telecommunications giant has laid claim to.

In one Catalina Foothills neighborhood, two 5G towers could be seen very close to people’s homes, just around the corner from one another. 

Robert Washington lives across the street from one of the towers and called it an “eyesore.” 

“I don’t know why they would stick them in a residential area,” Washington said. 

He said at first, he thought it was just going to be a street light. But hearing that it will lead to faster internet speeds, that’s where his issues end. 

“It gets a little slow sometimes especially during the day when people are working and kids that do homeschooling that use the internet a whole lot,” Washington said. 

The 5G rollout nationwide has been met with conspiracy theories, like the towers produce radiation that can cause cancer. There are even baseless claims linking the towers to the creation of the coronavirus pandemic or weakening your immune system against the virus. 

FEMA even responded to such claims giving them a big red X as false.  

We reached out to Verizon about its installation of towers in Tucson, a spokesperson said, “All of Verizon’s 5G wireless facilities have been deployed with the approval of local officials, and in compliance with local, state and federal law.” 

But the City of Tucson would disagree with its support.

Mayor Regina Romero said in a statement, “We recognize the benefits that 5G technology, and faster and more robust connections to the internet, can bring to Tucson, especially during the pandemic when access to internet is a necessity. However, it is imperative that residents and local governments are consulted before locations for poles are selected, which is not currently happening.” 

The Mayor and City Council wrote a letter that it sent to the State legislature Tuesday. In the letter, they urge the lawmakers to repeal a 2017 law that greatly limited local governments' ability to stop or influence the installation of cell towers.  

In the letter, the mayor says the towers have been impeding some elderly residents from putting their garbage at the curb and some have been installed in stormwater basins. 

As far as health concerns about the cell towers Verizon said, “Everyday exposure to the radio frequency energy from 5G small cells are well within those safety limits, and is comparable to exposure from products such as baby monitors, Wi-Fi routers and Bluetooth devices.” 

But they certainly have reason not to want a shadow over 5G, the Food and Drug Administration said it continues to study potential effects, but for now, the FDA said 5G frequencies are within FCC exposure guidelines. 

We spoke to Bart Rebore who lives near one of the new 5G towers. He is all for the technology. 

“I’ve researched it and seen the theories and don’t see anything that is science-based that alarms me at all," Rebore said. "I’m excited for any advancements we’re making to keep up with society and other countries. Maybe next high-speed rail. Let's keep it moving.”   

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Chorus Nylander

Chorus Nylander is the Chief Investigative Reporter for News 4 Tucson. He is focused on giving the voiceless a voice and holding the powerful accountable.

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