A 4G/5G so-called "small" Wireless Telecommunications Facility (sWTF) on Guthrie St. in downtown Louisville. (WDRB Photo)
A rendering of a potential Verizon 4G/5G sWTF antenna in a Louisville neighborhood. (Source: Bill Hollander)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — As Verizon and AT&T build out their 5G networks in Louisville, city leaders believe a legal door has been opened that gives them some ability to regulate the aesthetics of some of the antennas and poles the telecommunication companies are building across the city.
One of the new Verizon poles is slated to be built just across the street from a home Kevin Dohn is renovating in Buthchertown near the sidewalk outside Gold Bar and Sergio’s World of Beers.
Dohn has spent at least two months researching the project and uncovering its problems.
“It’s not about saying ‘no’ to 5G," Dohn explained. "It’s about saying, ‘Hey, you know, we need to be able to have more oversight.’”
Dohn says oversight is hard to come by and answers from Verizon are too.
“We’ve submitted a whole litany of questions," he said. "You know, we’re getting responses but we’re not getting answers.”
Dohn says he has questions about the safety of densified 4G/5G infratructure. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), however, has repeatedly ensured the public and Congress that the 4G/5G infratructure are compliant with current FCC pulsed, data-modulated, Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) exposure guidelines.
Aside from problems related to health, Dohn also has questions about the aesthetics of the poles. The one across the street from his Butchertown property could detract from the district’s historic nature, he said.
“A majority — a far majority of these — are basically in people’s front yards — the front easements," he added.
Dohn isn’t the only one who sees the [problems and can’t get answers from Verizon. Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, has heard from plenty of other constituents.
“I think that’s regrettable — very regrettable," he said.
Hollander says Verizon has applied to install about 40 of the antennas in his district alone. Verizon has applied to install a similar number in a neighboring council district, according to its council member Brandon Coan, D-8. Both Coan and Hollander now believe the city can take more action regarding the antennas and poles.
After a recent opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the two council members believe the city might be able to regulate “aesthetics-related” problems, like height, design and location of antennas and poles.
Hollander also hopes the city can ensure better communication to residents from companies like Verizon.
"New rules must be reasonable and published in advance, so Council Members Hollander, Nicole George (D-21) and I, along with Develop Louisville, the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office and Public Works are working on the fly to draft policy and take advantage of this opportunity," Coan wrote in a recent newsletter. "The changes would apply to current communications services franchisees and we retain authority over construction scheduling, so some delay in deployment may be permissible, but a moratorium is not."
Dohn, meanwhile, says all of that would be a good start as he and others continue to push back. He’s instructing those he knows to contact council members, members of Congress and, when appropriate, the State Historic Preservation Office.
“We should be seeing a lot of push-back, because this affects a lot of people very directly," he said.