In the past six months 354 people died in jet crashes resulting from operating system defects in Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in Ethiopia and Indonesia. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the next 10 days the company is preparing to issue simple software fixes after tragic parallels became undeniable between these two crashes.

Last week the Jackson Hole Daily and the Jackson Hole News&Guide reported on plans to expand antenna systems to accommodate 5G throughout Grand Teton National Park and Teton County.

“What is a 5G network? The short answer, nobody really knows … yet!” a report says. “This is still a work in progress and there are many unknowns, including solutions for spectrum sharing, potential service rules ... ownership of these frequencies, [etc.] These are all obstacles that specialists are working through, which explains the approximate five-year expectancy of 5G’s arrival.”

The current system of 3G and 4G relies on tall towers that have antennas that can reach many miles. For 5G many so-called small-cell microwave antennas that are simultaneously sending and receiving would service a solitary town block. So for this new network to work, millions of new antennas will be needed across the nation and throughout the parks, and a decidedly different infrastructure must be built.

Recent Federal Communication Commission rulings restrict considerations regarding antenna siting to matters of aesthetics. Looking at concerns about health and safety or environmental impacts is not permitted, as none are assumed to exist.

In last week’s News&Guide AT&T explained that while 5G is the eventual goal for providers so people can have homes in which their 5G coffeepots, 5G streaming videos and 5G baby monitors and diapers can talk as part of the vast internet of things, the new antennas would serve a more immediate purpose, bolstering 3G and 4G cellphone networks, which are often strained in Jackson’s peak tourism season.

Right now there are no 5G phones for sale in the U.S., and prices are projected to range from $1,000 to $3,000, with additional fees for people who choose to use the sometimes foldable, iPad-size devices.

In a Jackson Town Council discussion last month, Councilor Jonathan Schechter raised a more fundamental issue: Because engineers had advised that simple software modifications can convert antennas from 4G to 5G systems, any proposed new systems should be subject to public hearings regarding their intended uses and frequencies.

As the Town Council considers proposed rules for 5G in the coming weeks, questions are being asked about the aesthetic impacts of these systems, consistent with FCC rules. Famed for close to a century for the National Elk Refuge and wildlife that now must wend their way through increasingly challenging barriers — including “green” golf courses and sprawling homesites bunkered into grasslands — the aesthetic (and, indeed, environmental) character of Jackson would be inalterably changed by any system that affects insect pollination and mammalian migration.

Pronghorn migration extends around and through parts of settled areas. The need to protect that migration is unquestioned. Recent scientific publications indicate that migration depends on a tiny protein located near the eye, called the cryptochrome, that senses subtle changes in the earth’s magnetic field to guide animals to their destinations. The public should be engaged in discussing how expanding antennas several hundred-fold in our community can interfere with this protected migration and looking for ways to mitigate that interference, whether the impact be solely aesthetic or more profoundly environmental.

Devra Davis, Ph.D., is a fellow at the American College of Epidemiology, associate editor for Frontiers in Radiation and Health and the president of the Environmental Health Trust. She lives in Teton Village. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

Johanna Love steers the newsroom as editor. Her time off is occupied by kid, dog, biking, camping and art. She loves to hear from readers with story tips, kudos, criticism and questions.

(2) comments

Jim Olson

I listened to Monday's interview with Mayor Muldoon on KHOL. The Mayor used some literally "incredible" logic: There haven't been any studies done as to the adverse health effects on humans, animals, and plants by 5G technology, so,...and here is the incredible part......, therefore since 5G hasn't been proven unsafe, we should go forward with installing 5G infrastructure. That, people, is a real head scratcher.
That's like saying: It hasn't been proven that climate change is driven in part by humans (even though it has) so let's keep burning coal, and keep polluting our atmosphere. Mayor Muldoon, what is wrong with you? I can't believe it!!!!!

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