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San Diego Getting 5G, City Planners Say Antenna Rollout Will Be Unobtrusive

This Feb. 25, 2019 file photo shows a banner of the 5G network is displayed d...

Photo by Manu Fernandez / AP

Above: This Feb. 25, 2019 file photo shows a banner of the 5G network is displayed during the Mobile World Congress wireless show, in Barcelona, Spain.

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City Council in a near unanimous vote Tuesday approved regulations that put restrictions on how 5G technology infrastructure can be deployed.

Aired: July 25, 2019 | Transcript

San Diego is one step closer to getting high speed cellular technology, though with some new limitations. In a 7-1 vote Tuesday, City Council approved regulations that city planners say will protect the beauty of the city as 5G is adopted

The city’s move toward 5G infrastructure is inevitable. Last year, Federal Communications Commission rolled back regulations, in effect restricting local governments from being able to control how telecommunications providers can build out the 5G infrastructure.

San Diego Councilwoman Dr. Jan Campbell cast the only vote against the regulations over health concerns. Councilman Mark Kersey abstained from the vote due to conflicting business interests.

Some San Diego residents have pushed back, saying 5G technology can be aesthetically unpleasing, because it can only work if shoe-box size cellular devices are installed on poles or street lights on nearly every city block. However, cities that don't speedily approve permits could face potential legal action.

That’s why city's planning commission approved these new regulations, requiring these so-called “small cells” to at least be as unobtrusive as possible, according to Karen Lynch, a project developer with the city.

"We’ve worked hard to revise our regulations and guidelines to streamline the process to comply with state and federal mandates and at the same time we’ve incorporated high design standards to ensure integration and to protect our communities from poorly designed and or maintained wireless sites," Lynch said at the Tuesday meeting.

City planners have also created guidelines for historic districts, Lynch said, so they can apply to get specially designed poles.

"These stand-alone poles can be designed per the community's request, including things like pole height, color and additional design features," Lynch said.

San Diego is among the first cities in the country to begin the large-scale 5G rollout.

Photo of Shalina Chatlani

Shalina Chatlani
Science and Technology Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover all things science and technology — from the biotech industry in San Diego to rooftop solar energy on new homes. I'm interested in covering the human side of science and technology, like barriers to entry for people of color or gender equity issues on biotech boards.

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