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10% of cell sites examined violate FCC rules limiting excessive radio-frequency radiation

Six engineers examined 5,000 cell tower sites and found that 10% violated FCC rules.
October 5, 2014

According to the Wall Street Journal, six engineers examined 5,000 cell tower sites and found that 1 in 10 of the sites violated FCC rules requiring the use of barricades and signs preventing people from getting too close.

Yet even with these violations found, the FCC has only issued two citations to mobile operators since rules were adopted in 1996. The FCC has claimed in the past that they simply do not have the resources to monitor each antenna. Federal rules require carriers to use “barricades, signs and training to protect people from excessive radio-frequency radiation, the waves of electric and magnetic power that carry signals.”

This past Spring, Verizon agreed to pay $50,000 after they were accused of radio frequency violations in Pennsylvania and Connecticut due to missing signs and unlocked rooftop access of the cell tower. When one engineer spotted a number of violations at a T-Mobile antenna installation, the Wall Street Journal contacted T-Mobile, who immediately installed warning signs and a chain to restrict access in front of the antenna.


Not to worry though as Verizon has an excuse for all of these errors found by the engineers. Verizon’s vice president of federal regulator affairs told the FCC in February that tenants at a condo in New York City hired a lawyer and demanded the operator remove radio frequency signs from a terrace access point. So, is Verizon trying to actually claim that everyone else has no issue with the missing signs and unlocked doors?

Carriers have also been under fire in the last few years for the amount of deaths from employees climbing the cell towers. As I have written previously, since 2008, climbing a cell tower is one of the most dangerous professions in the world (in terms of death rate per 100,000 employees). Since 2003, AT&T has more employee fatalities than Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon combined.

Things are not getting better either as carriers continue rushing to upgrade and improve their LTE networks. In 2013, there was a significant spike in cell tower deaths (19) which is more than 2011 and 2012 combined.