James Snell    Sep 28, 2021
5G wireless service, a cutting-edge technology installed in many cities around the world and a topic of ongoing debate in Winnipeg, may still be a distant dream for those wanting ultra-high speed cellular service.
Some Winnipeggers are against 5G – small cell – for supposed health reasons like hypersensitivity to electromagnetic radiation, cancer, cellular stress, learning problems and neurological disorders. Others, who want 5G deployed as soon as possible, view the potential health concerns as dubious. They don’t want Winnipeg to fall behind cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton.
The debate resumed at City Hall on Tuesday during a meeting of the Innovation and Economic Development Committee. Around a dozen anti-small cell activists spoke to city councillors in delegations about their concerns. Delegates were told ahead of time the City isn’t responsible for the deployment of small cell technology. It’s a federal matter. Also, the City doesn’t have the authority to ban 5G, one councillor said.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that our implementation of wireless technology is not safe,” Frank Clegg of Canadians for Safe Technology and former president of Microsoft Canada told committee members. “I’m especially concerned about 5G and our plan for wireless 5G, especially its impact on children. There is a roll you can play as a council.”

In September 2020, the City formed a working group composed of department staff and wireless service providers in Manitoba. The goal was to conduct a small cell trial to develop insight into processes and policies that could eventually facilitate 5G deployment in Winnipeg. According to a public service report, the working group hasn’t carried out the trial.

However, the group has determined that municipal jurisdiction over the location of small cell installations is limited. Also, they said residents need to be guided to appropriate experts and resources when it comes to small cell inquiries and concerns.

“Major wireless service providers are all interested in installing small cells throughout Winnipeg and all cities in Canada,” a spokesperson for the public service told the committee. “From a public policy perspective, this can be viewed as a form of economic development. Communications are sort of modern railroads.”

Moving the issue forward, the City will create a website for ongoing public communication on small cell that will be a hub for updates on the technology and planning. The site will include information about 5G trials, once available, and subsequent steps including links to wireless service providers, Health Canada, and Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada. The City will also provide a dedicated email address for inquiries on the topic.

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