"County Executive Marc Elrich" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Marc Elrich,
We ask that you impose a moratorium on “small cells” and other wireless infrastructure permits process and deployment until the COVID-19 emergency is over.
Wireless providers continue to expand wireless infrastructure during the COVID-19 crisis, a time when non-essential employees of the wireless companies should be permitted to stay at home. Additionally, our local leaders should not have to dedicate time and resources to policing whether the wireless companies are following local and state law. They have far more important things to do.
The FCC wireless permit rules allow emergency moratoria. Homeland Security guidelines emphasize that maintenance of existing communications capability is the priority. New construction is not “essential.”
The COVID-19 emergency has led to a government shut down of non-essential activity. Hospitals, emergency response and local officials are overwhelmed and they must be allowed to focus on what is indeed “essential”. Now is not the time to be dedicating resources to expanding, rather than just maintaining, our networks.
The FCC has directly held a local jurisdiction can impose a temporary halt to deployment and permits during emergencies. In the Matter of Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers, FCC 18-111, 33 FCC Rcd 7705, 7784-7785, ¶157 (2018) (“We recognize that there may be limited situations in the case of a natural disaster or other comparable emergency where an express or de facto moratoria that violates section 253(a) may nonetheless be ‘necessary’ to ‘protect the public safety and welfare’ or to ‘ensure the continued quality of telecommunications services.’”)
Homeland Security has declared that local government is on the forefront and can take control over determining whether to temporarily halt all non-essential activity. Homeland Security guidance documents prioritize maintenance of existing Communications Systems, and do not support “essential” status for new construction. See Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19,
(local control); e-Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Support Annex,
(focus on “protection, response, recovery, and restoration”). Homeland Security, like the FCC, understands that it is essential in an emergency situations justify focusing on protecting, responding, recovering and restoring of existing systems, but new communications facilities construction is and should be deemed nonessential, and subject to the same lockdown procedures as other non-essential activity for so long as we are under emergency conditions.
Wireless structures are often also topics of democratic debate and protest. Since the normal procedures regarding free speech and freedom of assembly guaranteed in our Constitution's Bill of Rights have been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 emergency, it would be best, for the preservation of our democratic systems, to delay any decisions and actions which may be likely to inspire democratic debate and protest until after the COVID-19 crisis is over, so that citizens may fully enjoy the democratic process after the emergency is over. This particularly applies to any wireless construction within a third of a mile from Blair high school, as many parents, students, and other concerned citizens may be concerned about wireless facilities being constructed so near to where students spend so much time, and deserve the opportunity, as citizens, to have their protests heard in the democratic manner after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
We know that you yourself have an admirable history of protesting during the civil rights movement, including desegregation activities, and you also participated in protesting the Vietnam war. We are aware that too many times throughout American history, the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights were ideals that, in actually practice failed to apply to numerous people. However, we are confident that as a person with a proud history of protest yourself, you will wish to preserve the free speech rights of people wishing to protest against cell phone towers and antennas, even if it must be delayed until after the
COVID-19 crisis is over.
Cities and counties can and should impose a moratorium on deployment in their local area and freeze the permit process until the COVID-19 emergency is over.