TRENTON — Is this a hoax?
In a stunning reversal, the legislative body that months ago sought a citywide ban on installation of 5G towers over unfounded conspiracies that it would hasten the spread COVID-19 will hear proposals from two telecommunications companies about bringing the latest high-speed technology to the capital city.
It's unclear whether some council members are still convinced of a hoax that linked the spread of the novel coronavirus to 5G technology, which can provide higher data speeds with less delays.
The council will listen to the pitches at Tuesday's workshop meeting after having previously drafted an ordinance that would've banned construction of antennae, towers and "similar structures that employ camouflage technology" in Trenton under the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
The proposal, inspired by a letter from Trentonian Tahirah Gurley of Bellevue Avenue, never went forward after The Trentonian wrote about it in April.
Yet, it was clear that some council members were moved by Gurley's letter in which she seized on the 5G hoax.
Council president Kathy McBride seemed to perpetuate the conspiracies, sharing a Facebook post of a worker in a hazmat suit near a 5G tower.
The post discussed how a "new report" cautioned the public to stay away from the towers.
McBride, who did not respond to a phone call Monday, downplayed her apparent fears in a previous interview with The Trentonian, saying she needed to consult a "scientist" who could advise council on possible public health risks of installing 5G in Trenton.
In her letter, Gurley urged city leaders to "impose a moratorium on 'small cells' and other wireless infrastructure permits process and deployment until the COVID-19 emergency is over."
She claimed "wireless providers are using the COVID-19 emergency as cover to expand and cement their rapid and virtually unsupervised deployment of harmful wireless infrastructure."
"Our local leaders should not have to dedicate time and resources to policing whether the wireless companies are following local and state law," she wrote. "They have far more important things to do."
At-large councilman Santiago Rodriguez had forwarded Gurley's letter to council attorney Edward Kologi, asking him to research whether the city could enact a ban.
Kologi said the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 limited the city's authority to regulate placement of 5G cell towers.
"This is new stuff," Rodriguez told The Trentonian on Monday. "I need more explanations on the potential health impact. That is my concern. Those are radio frequencies, very high frequencies."
Rodriguez made clear he doesn't believe the 5G coronavirus hoax and his concerns are grounded in public health.
"They don't have studies of [effects[ of long-term exposure," he said. "Give me copies of recent studies. We have to be a little careful about rushing things."
The International Commission on Non‐Ionising Radiation Protection, which studies the potential health and environmental impact of non‐ionising radiation, said 5G isn't harmful as long as the organization's standards are followed.
High-energy radiation, such as x-rays and gamma rays, can cause cancer.
The issue came up in Jersey City earlier this year, but the council ultimately passed an ordinance that allowed installation of high-capacity fiber optic cables on existing utility poles and 72 new utility poles for 5G in the city.
Mayor Reed Gusciora, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, has expressed support for bringing 5G to New Jersey's capital.
He said in a statement that AT&T and Verizon will "pay the city for each 5G small cell device they install" and "work with Trenton historians to ensure that important landmarks and historical properties are not disrupted by installations," Gusciora said. "In addition, the administration will ask these companies to work with area schools and colleges to make sure 5G related jobs and training are available to Trenton residents and students."