Operator…Would You Help Me Place This Nightmare?

(The Hidden Costs of Cell Phone Technologies)


keith harmon snow


Cell phone towers have drawn minor criticism by Massachusetts’ rural hilltowns residents for their ugliness. Huntington (MA) and  Montgomery (MA) are two local examples. Like the manipulation of local government and local people’s control by the mega-companies involved, this has been scantily reported, often putting the corporate interests first.

Invariably, even the local newspapers treat the issue as if the public interests were on a level playing field with the corporate interests. Such is the corporate bias -- based in the sociological effects of billions of dollars of propaganda -- denied by most reporters, in the local newspapers.

The greater injustice however comes in considering that profits-first corporations and their lawyers have successfully hidden – with the media’s cooperation – both the phenomenal local and global public health and environmental costs of wireless telecommunications technology. And towers just keep popping up, unopposed, across the Pioneer Valley – like everywhere else.

According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the American Bird Conservancy and many, many academic experts, cell towers are decimating populations of songbirds. It is estimated that from 4 to 40 million birds are killed annually, and experts believe that even these numbers may be far too conservative.

Birds are already suffering epidemics of disease due to corporate-dumped and federally approved chemical and radioactive pollution, due to urban Wal-Mart sprawl, corporate-and US-government induced global climate mayhem, and gun-enthusiasts pumping lead into the environment for sport (in violation of at least four Federal statutes). With a 50% (minimum) global habitat loss in the past few decades, our lovely birds are now being slaughtered by the millions as their navigational senses fail to negotiate a national landscape increasingly dotted with obstructional towers of solid steel and hidden guide wires.

These bird mortalities, the result of corporations like Sprint, Integrated Mobile Services, Cox Broadcasting, AT&T, and American Tower, are in direct violation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act – a federal law that makes the accidental or intentional killing of any migratory bird illegal.

Citizen concerns about tower siting practices are echoed in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by Fish & Wildlife Service Director Jamie Clark, who wrote: “the [F&W] service has concerns with the way communications towers are planned, sited, and constructed.” These concerns were suppressed.

The FCC is totally under the sway of telecomms corporations. The FCC approves some 5,000 new towers each year (50,000 lighted communications towers have already been built). The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 serves only the multinational corporations, which lobbied for it, and funded its passage with millions of dollars of corrupt contributions.

Under the auspices of the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, (RICO) laws passed in the 1990’s clearly apply to the corporate assault on the earth and its ecology and should be duly applied to telecomms corporations by the US Attorney General. Instead, RICO laws are being used against environmental activists who have mobilized their hearts and their integrity to defend the earth against corporate economic or eco-terrorism.  

The 1996 Telecommunications Act in no way represents the interests of the citizens of the United States. It both tramples the interests of local towns and insures the ease with which a corporation – which cares nothing about local children who might suffer brain tumors – can manipulate and override local democracy.

Children? Brain tumors? It may not be clear to citizens that the impacts of telecom technology on wildlife have been – at the very least – suppressed. However, given the complete absence of news reporting on the toxicity of this technology to humans, it should be starkly obvious that telecommunications corporations and our compromised local media have perpetuated an electromagnetic version of the tobacco industry cover-up.

Radio and microwave signals of wireless technology can cause neurological, respiratory, dermatological and cardiac disorders, including hypertension, irritability, eye problems and skin diseases. Brain tumors and eye cancers due to prolonged cell phone use have been sufficiently documented. Most at risk to disease are children and pregnant women.

This has been known since at least 1949. There is significant further evidence that wildlife and farm animals in the vicinity of cell towers are suffering epidemics of disease. Even some of the disingenuous research sponsored by the telecommunications industry – designed from the get-go to prove cell technology safe --  has “discovered cell phone signals might cause genetic damage” spurring cancer growth.

It is sad that the basic truths on issues such as these are not available to the public. Even sadder is the failure of the public to take the initiative to find out the facts for themselves.

The idea that cell phones offer greater benefits than they do risks is predominantly based on ignorance, arrogance and unconsciousness. Yes, in an emergency, a cell phone is important. But ours is a society where U.S. citizens – mostly people of affluence – motor around in luxury, with the fanciest of gadgets, unconcerned about the genocide being waged for their petrol, rubber, or metals, or the toxic emissions (from their tailpipes) causing global climatic mayhem, which affects all life.

Indeed, much of the conspicuous American consumption of resources is for entertainment, recreation or leisure. While government serves the corporations, and neither regulates equitably nor honestly the corporate plunder, the media plays dumb, remains silent, or actively covers for them. (Springfield’s  KIX radio station, for example, in July ran a “news” feature that described organic farming as a scam.) And the individual goes to profound lengths – acting like a spoiled or wounded child – to justify his or her selfish, arrogant behavior. It is time people took responsibility for their lifestyles.

Local government officials, select and health boards, and education officials would be wise to stop assuming the commonly held position of “neutrality” – suggesting, like the media, that multinational corporations and the general public share a level playing field. To be “neutral” or “impartial” is impossible in a society based on profits first, environment and people last, where corporations and lawyers dictate the most commonly held perspectives, who wield power and fear in their last resort to the corporate agenda. 

“We remind our elected Selectman,” wrote Huntington residents Nancy & John Kaminski, and Deborah & Jeffrey Wyand, in a May letter to Country Journal, “your primary obligation and responsibility is to the citizens of this town, not to the Federal government, and not to American Tower or Sprint. Your decisions should be based upon the benefit to and safety of the town residents.”

We have exceeded the limits to growth. Select boards and local newspapers continue to behave as if it were business as usual. If our local government officials do not serve the best interests of our towns, and they are NOT serving the best interests of our towns, we must replace them swiftly and decisively.

This is really the beginning, and not the end, of the hidden story of cell-phones. Indeed, note that over 80% of the world’s supply of columbium-tantalite comes from private western interests perpetuating war in Congo/Zaire, where the US is one of the leading arms suppliers, and over 3 million people have been killed since 1998. Columbium-tantalite – or coltan – is a major raw material essential for the manufacture of cell phones.


keith snow has BSEE and MSEE degrees from the University of Massachusetts, specializing in microwaves and antennas. Formerly a manager for GE Aerospace Electronics Laboratories, he has had four (microwave) research articles published in the journals of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).