Sprint 4G's San Francisco Future To Be Decided By Board of Supervisors

Categories: Government, Tech
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Not here you don't...
San Francisco's route to really fast handheld Internet access has slowed to a crawl as activists in Bernal Heights have compelled a Board of Supervisors hearing over their concern that broadband antennae might shake loose in the event of an earthquake and accidentally zap residents with concentrated radio waves. Really.

The Board is scheduled today to consider an appeal of the Planning Commission's decision to not require an environmental review for the installation of five small dish antennae on the radio tower at Bernal Hill. The dishes are supposed to transmit broadband data for Sprint's 4G network. San Franciscans may be willing to blithely tolerate the hundreds of thousands of cars, collapse-prone earthquake-zone houses, and the presence of high-pressure gas pipelines under our streets. But the idea that near-undetectable added levels of radio waves might emanate from a tower that has been radiating since the 1960s is apparently too much for some locals to countenance.

Thanks to administrative delays, Modesto and Stockton have been able to join Sprint's nationwide network of so-called 4G ultra fast mobile Internet service, as San Francisco waits.

San Francisco residents' success in delaying or blocking the installation of wireless communication antenna is so notorious that Steve Jobs himself felt compelled to comment on the phenomenon in a July press conference.

"When AT&T wants to add a cell tower in, oh, Texas or somewhere, it takes three weeks to get approval in a typical community. To get a cell phone tower in San Francisco, it takes something like three years," he said at the press event to discuss the iPhone 4's antenna issues.

The news service CNET investigated, and found a University of Colorado telecommunications policy professor who said: "San Francisco has one of the most complicated, burdensome, arcane processes in the country, without question."

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Coming to Bernal?
In the case of the five dishes in question a company largely owned by Sprint wishes to install atop Bernal Hill, the Health Department has evaluated emissions data. It determined that radio emissions coming from the antenna would be at a level 0.0012 percent of the public exposure limit established by the Federal Communications Commission.

As of Aug. 31, ClearWire, the largely Sprint-owned company installing the broadband antennae, reported in a letter to the Board that that it had endured "an 8 month process through the Planning Department to a unanimous approval by the Planning Commission," prior to the appeal to be heard Tuesday.

By Jobs' calculus, ClearWire execs can look forward to another 28 months getting to know its new neighbors as debates continue at City Hall.

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