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One thing that sets some politicians apart is being ahead of the curve. The public representative that’s seen to be proactive on an issue is the one that gets the limelight, the media coverage and, they hope, the votes that usually come with such attention.

As I’ve stated in this column previously, most politicians get involved to do a public good. However, getting rewarded for same with votes is also a nice reward for the effort. As such, politicians meet community groups, lobby groups and charitable causes regularly in order to try stay abreast of the all the issues in their constituency and further afield. They can’t be experts in all fields, however.

At local level, this is increasingly difficult as, unlike TDs and Senators, there is no research office or staff at the disposal of a local councillor to examine issues and try get independent views on a given topic prior to a meeting. Instead, the local politician must rely on their own reading of an issue, and whatever material a given lobby group comes to their door with, in order to try form their own opinion on what can be complicated issues. All this being in their spare time, away from their full-time job, it should be added.

This is all well and good when it comes to funding for sports clubs, the arts, matters of transportation and other things almost every member of the public can relate to. But what about very technical matters for which, frankly, the majority of public representatives just are not qualified to have an informed opinion about? We are all aware of the misinformation put out by anti-vaccines advocates, all based on pseudo-science and outright lies. However, to those
without a scientific grounding, this pseudo-science mumbo jumbo that the anti-vaxx lobby propagate would seem to have merit, given the way it’s framed. It’s from these uncertainties, especially in the unregulated minefield of social media, that outright dangerous and false ideas are allowed fester and grow causing untold damage as they do.

Nevertheless, Clare County Council would seem to have fallen victim to something similar at one of their first meetings since the recent election. I write of their decision to seek to halt the
roll out of 5G mobile infrastructure in Clare. Before I get into it, I will give our councillors credit for one thing. Their decision was born form a place of genuine concern for the people of Clare. Nevertheless, the ‘information’ their decision was based on appears to be highly inaccurate.

First off, 5G is the latest generation of mobile communication technology. The latest smart phones
operating in Clare and beyond are 4G and our current telecoms infrastructure is geared towards that
technology. The main difference between 4G and 5G is that 5G is reporting to be up to 100 times faster as well as more efficient than its predecessor.

Many in the tech industry see it as a solution to slow broadband speeds without the need for laying expensive fibre in the ground. It is also seen as the basis behind the advent of driverless cars, automated drone deliveries and other such technology.

Groups opposed to 5G though, claim that it poses significant health risks to the population, citing unproven allegations of cancer risks. For clarity, I should point out that the frequency range for the new proposed technology will be the existing 600MHz to 6GHz as well as the 30GHz to 300GHz range of the electromagnetic spectrum. By comparison, visible light takes in the range of frequencies in the order of 430 trillion Hz to 750 trillion Hz, frequencies in the order of 1,000 times higher than those in question with 5G.

Claiming that the 5G range is “high-frequency” is simply wrong but, when not given in context, would look potentially alarming. Cancer causing electromagnetic radiation typically comes in the form of x-rays and gamma rays which are many order of magnitude higher than visible light again.
Anti 5G campaigners also falsely claim that in order for the technology to work, huge numbers of trees will need to be felled. This again is highly inaccurate. I’ve been presented online with graphs and extracts from studies from conspiracy theorists who are trying to claim that Governments are felling trees on the behest of mobile phone companies.

When investigated though, the studies appear misquoted and information taken out of context. But simply, if the mobile signal can’t penetrate the wall of the building you’re currently sitting it, it wouldn’t be much good to anyone. Therefore, the trees are safe. Even the “line of sight” argument between mobile masts and signal degradation would only appear to call for a slight heightening of mobile masts, again, posing non concern to people of trees. So where is all this “fake news” surrounding 5G coming from? Ironically, from the United States Government apparently.

The reason being, the Chinese technology firm Huawei have raced ahead of their US rivals and are ready to roll out the technology, leaving the Americans in their dust. In an attempt to catch up, it appears that certain US officials are more than happy to talk up public health as well as security concerns around 5G technology.

It’s reported that these tactics are contributing to the growing trade war between the two states and as such, it’s going to be a messy one to sort out as long as Trump continues to do business in his trademark adversarial manner.

So, spare a thought for our local elected representatives. In their part-time role, they cannot possibly stay on top of the latest scientific breakthroughs, geopolitical ramblings, be experts on medial matters as well as be expected to have university level grasp of physics.

Their vote against 5G was based out of concern, but with better facts, I hope that they reconsider and vote to allow progress and connectivity that the Banner county so desperately needs.

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