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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

City Council round up: cell coverage and climate goals

By Carina Andrews

Ambitious climate goals and expanding Bellingham’s cell coverage were the main points of interest at this weeks city council meeting on March 12.

Bellingham City Council discussed plans to implement small cell solutions to expand Bellingham’s cellular network.

Small cell solutions are used to expand cell phone coverage without building entirely new cell towers. These small technologies are planned to be placed on existing street signs, telephone and power polls, known as right-of-way infrastructure.

Council Member Gene Knutson led the recap discussion on small cells. Knutson said small cells will complement and improve the existing coverage in Bellingham and encouraged the council to approve the plan.

Jon Humphrey, a member of the Bellingham publicly owned fiber optic network, an activist group with the goal of implementing more fiber networks, expressed to the council his dissatisfaction with the city’s plan to implement small cells without the use of fiber optic technologies.

“Small cells will help make the network more reliable, but they will never be as reliable as fiber,” Humphrey said.

Fiber optics are glass or plastic threads that are used to transmit data rather than metal cables. The benefit of fiber is that it expands bandwidth, but it comes with a higher price tag.

The staff for Public Works and Natural Resources will be bringing code changes to the City Council within the next couple of months, Knutson said.

Among other items discussed at the meeting was the city’s climate action plan update. The resolution aims to reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions produced in the city.

Lynn Murphy, an employee of Puget Sound Energy, voiced her concern that the resolution’s goals are unrealistic.

Puget Sound Energy is concerned that the climate action plan’s goal to adopt 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2030 is not attainable, according to Murphy.

Council members discussed the plan update earlier in the day and, because of lack of clear wording around the goals, have decided to postpone implementing the update until edits have been completed.

Council member Pinky Vargas said the council will be making slight changes to the plan to clarify that these are goals the city aspires to, not that they believe are immediately achievable.

The council also heard from the Bellingham Police Department on its strategic plan. The plan intends to form a compact of expectations and commitments by and between the departments, city leaders and the public, council member Gene Knutson said.

“This plan is organized around six strategic decision-making commitments. First, and it has to be the most important, is safety first, safety of the public and of the officers,” Knutson said.

Knutson encouraged Bellingham citizens to read the plan online to understand Bellingham Police Department’s commitments to the city. Knutson also invited the public to hear the police department’s second presentation of the plan at the next city council meeting on March 26.


  1. What we need right now is a higher standard in Wireless Providers. No matter the standard, most of the problems with wi-fi exist because of a lack of adequate fiber for backhaul and stem from the way we license spectrum. Hence, you can NOT have a reliable network without lots of fiber backing it up.
    Your current 4G tech should be about 10 times faster than it is and last 3 times as long. You also need fiber to hook up to everything, including small cells, at every street corner. If that fiber is public then everyone benefits from it. Plus, most of the features advertised along with 5G, can actually be accomplished with current 4G LTE tech.
    The council met with NO experts outside of the big telecom companies, even though many exist. The COB also insisted that the existing public network and infrastructure were not usable, but started leasing it out to companies like AT&T starting in 2016. That means they flat out lied to us, so they could ear mark our public infrastructure for companies like AT&T and Verizon.
    They also totally blew off health concerns starting to crop up about 5G tech from heavy hitters like the European Journal of Oncology, NIH, etc.
    A better technology called a distributed antenna system, should be used in most cases instead of small cells. One of its main benefits is that it allows you to move all of the gear people don’t want hung outside of their homes to shielded boxes nearby. Here are a few links for those who actually want to understand how this tech works.
    The 5G Myth by William Webb — http://a.co/d/csLSnIh
    Distributed Antenna Systems — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_antenna_system
    Wireless Wakeup call — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0NEaPTu9oI
    Scientific Overview of Human Health Risks (5G) — https://ehtrust.org/key-issues/cell-phoneswireless/5g-networks-iot-scientific-overview-human-health-risks/
    AT&T and Verizon to Throttle First Responder Connections — https://yro.slashdot.org/story/18/09/07/2111248/att-offers-unlimited-plan-deal-for-first-responders-but-it-can-be-throttled
    5G and Why We Still Need Public Fiber — https://nwcitizen.com/entry/5g-hype-our-health-and-why-we-still-need-public-fiber
    You really need to look beyond the council and the COB staff to write a complete article. There are many highly skilled local pros that will give you honest answers.
    Most of the council is uninterested in learning more about technology and therefore relies on staff that usually just do everything that Ajit Pai and the most corrupt FCC in American history suggests. Even before WA enacted net-neutrality laws, the COB higher-ups had no real concerns about the loss of net-neutrality. They continued to suggest connections from Comcast, CenturyLink, Verizon, etc.
    In fact, in 2016 we gave AT&T about $1 million in corporate welfare for the Sehome Hill Facility. We also justified it with the safety argument, only to find out that AT&T, Verizon, etc. were going to throttle first responder connections. How can that be safe?
    We still do not have real competition if you do the numbers. Our FCC standard for high speed internet is less than half of what the Canadian standard for free internet is. Something is very wrong with telecom in the US and 5G is not a magic bullet that will solve it all. Nor will it truly be safe without proper infrastructure to back it up. My God, they won’t even guarantee communications for our first responders.


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