Many oppose Sebastopol Wi-Fi ban

April 15, 2008 1:01:30 PM PDT
The Sebastopol City Council's decision not to contract with Sonic.net for free Wi-Fi service downtown because of health concerns about electromagnetic waves from wireless devices is getting a bad reception.

Wi-Fi proponents, including students at Analy High School, plan to present as many as 1,000 signatures on petitions supporting the network to the City Council tonight.

The students don't see the logic of spurning a free Wi-Fi network downtown when city residents already are using cell phones and private wireless Internet networks that also emit non-ionizing radiation. They say the World Health Organization considers electromagnetic radiation safe, compared to ionizing radiation from ultra-violet light, X-rays and Gamma rays.

The City Council rescinded its agreement with Santa Rosa-based Sonic.net March 18 after Sandi Maurer and others expressed their health concerns. Maurer gathered 400 signatures against Wi-Fi and said she, like others, is electro-sensitive and suffers health issues.

The issue is not on the council's agenda and no action is expected tonight.

Councilwoman Linda Kelley asked the item be discussed last month in support of the "precautionary principle." She also said supporting Wi-Fi raises a social justice issue because some residents cannot afford DSL.

Wi-Fi opponents site literature from the BioInitiative Working Group that claims studies show electromagnetic fields are linked to increased risk of childhood leukemia and may lead to cancers in adults.

At the March 18 meeting, Sonic.net founder Dane Jasper said his company provides one-tenth of one watt from light poles and the coverage is small and has a small power level. He said the KZST and KJZY radio stations broadcast with 6,000 watts, according to minutes of the March meeting.

He said he did not know if businesses will disconnect their existing Wi-Fi if new, free Wi-Fi is available in the city and that Sonoc.net has a variety of services for low-income residents.

Jasper said if the city does not want Sonic.net's Wi-Fi services he would not challenge the decision.


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