We live in the broadband era. If we’re not in constant communication with one another, surely something bad will happen. Our politicians are even adding promises of faster and more widespread broadband and cell service to their agendas. It’s important; I know I want my cell phone service and I know I want the Internet at my disposal in the farthest reaches of desolation. But what if you had to look at a 130-foot metal tree to get it? Would you be so eager to not have that dropped call as you blathered on about nothing during a phone call that would not have been made 10 years ago?
In our little county of Windham there has been a lot controversy as the service we enjoy is beginning to affect the visual landscape. If you drive around the local area you can see the towers. There’s an old school one on top of Hogback, another atop Mount Wantastiquet in New Hampshire, and then the one that always makes me laugh, the one that was designed to blend in on the I-91 corridor -- the 130-foot "pine tree." Only problem with that is the next tallest pine tree is about 100 feet shorter, so the thing blends like a pink tutu in a biker bar.
So as these things begin to dot the landscape are we still OK with them? Would you be OK with it if your neighbor agreed to have one put on the property line they share with you? I’m guessing you wouldn’t, especially if you had to look at it every day.
But here’s the good news -- you’ll be able to fight it. Here’s the bad news -- you really can’t. It’s called the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Prior to 1996, the act was last amended in 1934 and was really meant to control the way radio stations owners ran their businesses. Fast forward and we begin to learn and see some of the backroom deals that were made to push this thing into law.
If you have health concerns around a cell tower being so close to you, don’t, because it really doesn’t matter how irradiated you get from the tower, thanks to the Telecommunications Act, which prevents municipalities and civilians from denying a project because of health concerns. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, because inhaling the smoke would probably be a healthier alternative anyway. It’s true, before you even think about mounting a case against a 130-foot steel "tree" being put into your backyard just know that your "I’m concerned my children will develop tumors" argument has already been removed from the equation.
This act, which had bi-partisan support and was heralded as a great thing, is really just a way to protect big money corporations from feeling the fallout of my favorite wartime euphemism -- collateral damage (that is, our bombs accidentally blew up a small neighborhood, but we got our objective, so no foul). This piece of legislation has made "We the People" powerless against bottom-line profits.
The 1996 Act lets cell phone companies do what they want, not unlike eminent domain, which allows the government to say, "Your farm is nice, but our highway is going to be nicer; here’s a check, best of luck." Think about it. The very minute they announce it, it’s done. They’ll go through the motions with you, they’ll even throw you a bone ... maybe. But at the end of the day you’ve got this federal piece of legislation that more or less says, "Tough luck and enjoy the constant humming that will lower your property value coming from that eyesore outside your kitchen window."
Whereas I like being connected, I’m really not into peppering the Vermont landscape with things that detract from the actual landscape of the Green Mountain State. But there’s nothing we can do to stop it ... nothing. We’re powerless. The only thing you can do is pray they don’t want to put one up near you. That, apparently, is the only hope you have. Let me ask you this -- how does that make you feel? How about we have a governor that is fast-tracking this kind of behavior -- how does that make you feel? I’m guessing it make you feel like saying, what the hell is up with that?