5G, boom of Municipalities against during the coronavirus emergency


From the Marches to Puglia, up to Veneto, orders surged to ban the antennas between April and May. In Italy the fake news that associate 5G and coronavirus is taking hold

Protest against 5G in Turin (photo by Marco Bertorello / Afp via Getty Images)

In mid – May the mayor of Udine Pietro Fontanini signed it stop at 5G in the second most populous city in the Friuli Venezia Giulia. The first citizen of the League is one of the last in order of time to have decided to block the antennas for the fifth generation of mobile communications in his municipality. The list of city ​​no-5G in Italy it stretches every day and now includes not only villages and small towns, which moved first, but also provincial capitals, such as Vicenza, Grosseto, Messina is Syracuse.

The speed with which the first citizens, of all political colors, sign the ordinances has also made a leap forward. As can be seen from a data analysis carried out by Wired, i Municipalities no-5G have passed by 53 of the period May 2019-February 2020 to 209 surfaced between March 2020 and May 20, for a total of 262. This recent surge is the effect of the pressure of committees to stop, but also the spread of conspiracy theories that blow on the fire of theCoronavirus emergency, linking it, despite being contradicted by science, to 5G.

The no-5G battle

The campaign to stop the fifth generation antennas takes shape in Italy in the spring of 2019. Last March, the Italian Stop 5G Alliance, a committee that already since 2018 has asked for the trial moratorium of the new telecommunications standard, organizes a meeting on the subject at the gates of Rome, in Vicovaro. The result is a manifesto that, among the various requests, invites the municipalities to issue ordinances to suspend the tests.

One of our canvases from Vicovaro was systematically sent to the mayors”, Explains Maurizio Martucci, national spokesman for the movement and journalist. And the proposal breaks through. First a Rome, in town hall XII 5 Star Movement traction, which defeats the mayor of the capital Virginia Raggi. Then to San Gregorio Matese, in Casertano, where Mayor Carmine Mallardo blocks a Wind-Tre plant in April “until the issues concerning the impact on citizens’ health are clarified“.

Then it was the turn of three municipalities in the Alta Langa, not even six hundred souls put together: Roascio, Trezzo Tinella and Marsaglia. The Communications Authority (AGCOM) includes them among the 120 small Italian villages that telecommunications companies are obliged to cover with 5G from 2022, so as not to increase the digital divide. But the three tricolor bands are not there: they write to the prefect, blame the choice and in June the first town of Marsaglia, Franca Biglio, signs the stop order.

For Pietro Guindani, president of Asstel, the telecommunications trade association, “it is surprising that Municipalities issue orders prohibiting “testing of 5G technology”, When the tests concern only the five Italian cities chosen by Mise (Ministry of Economic Development, responsible for the consignment, editor’s note): Milan, Prato, L’Aquila, Bari and Matera. It should also be clarified that the trials are of an exclusively technical nature“.

A “suspicious” coincidence

Since 2019 the number of Italian Municipalities opposed to fifth generation mobile networks has grown and almost all parties count among the members a mayor who opposed it. In May the Alliance claims 415 Municipalities which have 5G themed provisions. All against? Not exactly. The category includes both the real ones stop orders, be acts that do not block installations, such as motions, questions, resolutions to finance ad hoc research.

The ordinance remains the most direct weapon that the mayor can resort to, suggests Vicovaro, as the highest health authority in his territory. Analyzing the list of the 5G stop Alliance, press articles and the magistrates’ lists of the same municipalities, Wired he calculated it 262. Of these, 200 (76.3% of the total) were issued in less than fifty days, between April 2020 and May 20.

It is difficult to believe that this surge is just a coincidence, given that it happened just as Italy was in full emergency Covid-19. In the last few weeks a conspiracy theory, without scientific basis, which associates, has spread 5G and coronavirus. As the cybersecurity newsletter recalls Network wars, starts from the assumption that the disease has exploded a Wuhan because it was the first Chinese city to be connected with the new antennas. And consequently, where there is more 5G, coronavirus is better spread. The economic adviser of the Italian government, Gunter Pauli, also raised it in a tweet.

To be precise, the capital of Hubei is not the first but only one of the fifty cities that have 5G networks in China and not even the main one. And telecommunications have no connection with the spread of a virus. But despite the groundlessness of the correlation, the thesis took root, rebounding also in Italy (as the TV program testified Hyenas). In some ordinances it emerges that the concern about 5G it increased during the pandemic and that installations were stopped to reassure the population.

Francesco Italia, mayor of Syracuse of Action (the party of Carlo Calenda) in his provision writes that “there Covid-19 pandemic together with a changed perception of health risk, has determined a particular sensitivity of public opinion to environmental issues“, So much so that it orders the 5G to stop until the health emergency ends.

Also in the order of Civitavecchia the mayor Ernesto Tedesco, in the Lega share, although not rejoining fifth generation networks and coronaviruses, wants to clarify that in the city on April 10 181 positive at Covid-19. A detail out of context, however, in a completely different provision. Wired asked both early citizens for comment, but received no response. Just as Francesco Rucco, at the helm of Vicenza (with a center-right coalition), who in turn has banned 5G in recent weeks, did not reply to questions.

The fifth generation networks in Italy are currently a limited phenomenon. As emerges from a February report by the consulting firm Ernst & Young, 5G is only needed ten major cities (Milan, Monza, Brescia, Turin, Genoa, Sanremo, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples) and 28 municipalities in the Milanese hinterland, for a total of 6 million people. It is about the 10% of the Italian population and, before the pandemic, Ernst Young estimated that the service would be extended to 17% of Italians in 2020 and to 31% by 2021.

Face line

The geography of the Municipalities where the new technological standard is prohibited, which will allow for large-scale implementation robotics, telemedicine precision and remote surgery, industry 4.0 and the widespread sensors of smart cities, has evolved in the last twelve months. At the beginning the Maginot line ran between small villages. Of the 120 municipalities chosen by Agcom, about a third raised the barricades. Guindani notes that, despite being “subject to special attention to avoid them penalizing disparities in accessing the network of the future, they were among the first to implement initiatives aimed at blocking their implementation“. And he adds that “the costs would have been entirely borne by the operators“And the report would travel on frequencies”already in use for digital terrestrial TV broadcasts“.

Then the clash moved to the big centers: Messina is Syracuse in Sicily; Pistoia is Grosseto in Tuscany; Vicenza in Veneto; Udine in Friuli; Civitavecchia in Lazio. Up to enter the heart of the great Italian cities. TO Venicefor example, it was the municipality of the historic center (center-left drive) that approved an agenda for 5G. From the Municipality led by Luigi Brugnaro (center-right) they let us know: “We haven’t done anything, we align with the Mise“.

Anti-5G sign in the UK (photo by Justin Setterfield / Getty Images)
Anti-5G sign in the UK (photo by Justin Setterfield / Getty Images)

TO Known, whose municipal area extends for 550 square kilometers (fourth in Italy after Rome, Ravenna and Cerignola), the municipality confirms that “there was one exploratory phase concerning some companies interested in installing the antennas“. But on April 29 Mayor Corrado Bonfanti, who joined Forza Italia, signs the six-month stop, which can be extended. “I consider the installation or testing of antennas with 5G technology to be postponed or even unnecessary for our territory. Health protection is a very important aspect, also in light of the current pandemic“He said, calling again for the coronavirus emergency.

Ordinances often photocopy each other, especially in small towns generate a Domino effect. If a mayor signs the stop, similar measures, motions, interpellations in neighboring municipalities are triggered. Judging by the density of the ordinances only, the provinces warmer are those of Freeze (35 acts, although not all already issued by the underwriters of a common commitment) e Lecce (31), followed by Padua (18), Salerno (13), Messina (12) and Vicenza (10). If other measures are counted, Caserta (15), Bolzano (13), Teramo (13) and Rome (13) stand out.

In Salento opposition to 5G has exploded in recent weeks with a chain reaction. So much to push the regional councilor for economic development, Cosimo Borraccino, to specify that the current data “they do not suggest particular problems for the health of the population“And which the Apulian Regional Authority for Environmental Protection (ARPA) confirms”that this new technology already has protocols for installations that are based on preventive assessments of the measurement of electric fields“.

The prototype of the ordinances

Stops use the same sources. In support they come forward four arguments (already analyzed by Wired regarding the order of Scanzano Jonico). First: the so-called EHS, whose symptoms, however, as explained above Wired, are not attributable to exposure to electromagnetic fields and which 2015 studies interpret as a walnut effect (i.e. the negative reaction to something harmless, but perceived as harmful).

Second: pronunciations of law. In particular, a sentence of the Regional Administrative Court (TAR) of Lazio which imposed on the ministries of the Environment, Health and Education a campaign oncorrect use of the mobile phone and one of the Supreme Court on the link between cancer and smartphones, a topic debated in the scientific field. And with respect to which the International Commission for the Protection of Non-Ionizing Radiation (Icnirp), an independent body recognized by the World Health Organization, has specified that “the trend in the evidence that continues to accumulate is more and more contrary to the hypothesis that using a mobile phone causes brain tumors“. In March, INCNIRP updated its conclusions, confirming the limits previously imposed.

A 5G antenna (photo by Artur Widak / NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A 5G antenna (photo by Artur Widak / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Third: studies supporting the carcinogenicity of electromagnetic waves. There are three in particular. A search for the National toxicology program U.S. (Ntp) of 2018, conducted on rats and based on parameters deemed unreliable, and one of theRamazzini Institute of Bologna. In both cases, the results, observed Alessandro Polichetti, of the National Center for Radiation Protection and Computational Physics of the Higher Institute of Health (ISS), are different “from most of the over 50 laboratory animal studies in which the carcinogenicity of electromagnetic fields was assessed without observing effects“. So much so that, concludes Polichetti, “these two studies therefore do not seem to substantially change the overall picture of scientific evidence“. Then the opinion of theInternational Agency for Research on Cancer (Iarc), which inserts the frequencies of mobile phones in category 2B: “possible carcinogens“. But be careful reading this “possible“: Means that the carcinogenic effects cannot be excluded a priori but that the evidence is”limited” or “inadequate“.

Moreover, Polichetti indicates, “new epidemiological evidence, following the 2011 Iarc assessment and coming from different types of studies (cohort studies, studies on the incidence of tumors in the population) seem deny the indications of the case-control studies”, The only ones to indicate an increase in risks, but based on questionnaires in which respondents were asked to remember the number and duration of calls made via mobile phone, even after many years.

Fourth and final argument: the precautionary principle. Since we don’t know enough yet, let’s stop, it’s the thesis. However the “studies carried out so far, both epidemiological and experimental, do not suggest the existence of long-term risks”Wrote Polichetti. And he remembered that “the feared “proliferation of antennas” should not lead to generalized increases in exposures as the small size of the small cells will lead to lower emission powers“.

The rules of Italy

Italy also has more stringent emission limits from the rest of the world. And 5G will travel on frequencies already used. The 700 megahertz (MHz) band, the most coveted, is now occupied by televisions, which will release it from 2022. The 3.6-3.8 gigahertz (GHz) band was in part in use by the Defense. While the millimeter waves, another 5G band, “are reflected or reabsorbed superficially at the level of the skin, therefore without penetrating inside the body”Wrote Polichetti.

However, nobody asks to stop the search. ISS hopes “careful monitoring of exposure levels“. And in the Istisan report it provides study models that also take into account the “peak levels possible for very short periods of time, less than minutes, typical of the fluctuations that are typical of these signals“. The plans of the telecommunications companies, however, must already pass to the scrutiny of the ARPA. “This approach is very precautionary“, Reads the Istisan report,”allows to ensure compliance with the limits in any exposure condition“. At the request of WiredMunicipalities such as Chioggia and Noto said they had not consulted technical or expert committees before issuing their ordinances.

From Municipality to Municipality

TO Chioggia the 5G dossier lands on the benches of the city council last December. A unanimous vote rejects the tests in “little Venice”. Nonetheless, on 14 April the mayor Alessandro Ferro, at 5-star level, signs a suspension, which concerns both new antennas is the replacement of the existing ones, and is valid until the issue of a opinion by theInail or ISS. The latter, however, has already produced reports that exclude risks on 5G.

Some municipalities have chosen the street of the co-financing of studies. Martucci cites the cases Trento, Turin and Bologna. The case of the Emilian capital is peculiar, because the Ramazzini Institute is located there, one of the most influential voices in the anti-5G orbit. The Municipality however did not respond with a no quote. “We meet to explain the location of the plants and what the Commun can doand ”, says Marco Lombardo, city councilor for productive activities and work. The goal is to create a table to reconcile citizens’ requests with the projects of telecommunications companies, studying together where to place the systems and “how to minimize the impact“Adds Lombardo.

(photo: Stefan Wermuth / Getty Images)

At the end of October 2019 the conflict broke out between the Felsine town hall and the neighboring one San Lazzaro di Savena, where the mayor of Italy Viva Isabella Conti suspends the antennas. The censorship from the microphones of Radio Cape Town also the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, the Bolognese Sandra Zampa, share Pd. The same government official who, according to Martucci, in early October would have made an opening to the suspension of 5G signed by the deputy Sara Cunial, former 5 Star Movement now in the mixed group, supporter of no-vax theories, but then rejected. Recently the same Ministry of Health reiterated the absence of risks related to 5G. While Cunial, the Stop 5G Alliance claims, would have facilitated the delivery of 340 thousand signatures to ask Minister Roberto Speranza to stop the antennas.

In Livorno, explains the Councilor for Environment and Mobility, Giovanna Cepparello, “we made an act of address of the city council and we are following a study to define a antenna plane. We want to have a more appropriate regulation before the frequencies are activated“. Livorno, or rather his porthowever, it is one of the frontiers of 5G trials in Italy. The Tuscan Port Authority has signed an agreement with the Ericsson network multinational and the Interuniversity Telecommunications Consortium (CNIT) to apply technologies that travel on the fifth generation networks on the docks where they move 780 thousand containers every year and 2.5 million passengers board and disembark from cruise ships and ferries, as he recalls Republic. In the meantime, the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) has also taken the field to reiterate that there are no risks.

The unknowns on the market

The effect of leopard spots is that confusion reigns under Italian skies. Which risks weighing on both large operators, who work at theupdating of existing plants, both on the latest arrival in Italy, the Frenchwoman iliad, which is building its own network. The Emilian Tar, for example, has given reason to the Municipality of Bologna, which has rejected Iliad’s request to be able to start the works for the frequency of 700 Mhz, since it will only be available by 2022.

For Asstel you have to smooth out the differences. “We expect action from the government reorganization of competences between Municipalities, Regions and health institutions that assesses the illegitimacy of the acts that prevent the installation of the networks, contain their effects and prevent their further spread”Claims Guindani. Then, “a information campaign addressed to the public to disclose the real effects of electromagnetic fields on biosystems according to international and Italian scientific institutions“; “protection against acts of vandalism“; finally “interventions aimed at simplifying e sburocratize the authorization process for the installation of new equipment“.

Vodafone’s 5G (photo: Oliver Berg / picture alliance via Getty Images)

Delays and blockages have consequences not only in terms of connectivity, where Italy is already not doing very well (24th out of 27 in the European ranking), but also in terms of lack of economic development. Last year, a study by the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which has world leadership in the development of 5G, and Ernst & Young estimated an positive impact on GDP Italian about 80 billion euros in 15 years. For Asstel, investments for 5G in the 2018-2025 period will move between 55 and 70 billion. Delays, however, could cost dearly. For Ernst Young in Italy 12-18 months of delay in the development of 5G translate into “fewer benefits estimated between 2.9 and 43 billion euros“.

In the future, the competitiveness of companies, not only industrial ones, but also those of tourist and agricultural services, to give a couple of examples, will depend on having adopted more competitive operating methods thanks to the ultra-broadband, fiber and 5G networks, as is happening in Germany, France, Spain“Notes Guindani. And she says: “If Italy lags behind in terms of technological competitiveness, we will lose market share, both abroad and in Italy. It will mean loss of GDP and employment“.

The Italian advantage

In Europe the Belpaese has for now an advantageous position in the development of 5G. “Advantage to be relaunched in phase 2“Said Marco Bellezza, managing director of Infratel Italia (a company controlled by Mise and appointed to develop networks). National projects don’t stop. In June the five sample cities chosen by Mise will close their tests. At that point, based on the results, it will start network development. In the meantime, the ministry, as 5-star Undersecretary Mirella Liuzzi points out, “on the topic 5G has prepared two public notices: one for projects for safe road infrastructure in the Genoa area and another for the selection of new houses of emerging technologies after that of Matera“.

According to Liuzzi, “to counter the fake news on 5G we have to start from a confrontation with the territories and with the mayors“. His line is that “you need a constructive data-driven approach and scientific studies, as well as on the sources that come directly from the international bodies since these are already known frequencies, used for some time and with extensive literature on the subject. Furthermore, just as we rely on the Covid Higher Institute of Health for opinions, we would do well to trust the ISS also on the topic of 5G networks: it has been repeatedly stated, in fact, that there are no particular problems for the health of citizens“.

Challenge to Europe

The battle against 5G is not only an Italian, but a European grain. Etno, the European telecommunications association, and GSMA, the federation of mobile network companies, have estimated that false news about 5G they started editing on social networks from January and have been targeting children and teenagers, so that TikTok it has become the new front of the battle. The 35 most popular videos online have been shared 13 million times. And they hit first the Old continent, which follows China, the United States and South Korea in this race for new technologies.

The result is that protests against 5G have escalated. In Europe they are counted 120 attacks on networks or workers who were working (often on systems of a completely different type) in at least ten countries of the old continent. In Italy it happened to Maddaloni, in the Casertano area. “Fortunately, this phenomenon in our country has not reached the critical levels recorded above all in Italy England, where in Birmingham the antennas that guarantee the signal to Nightingale Hospital, putting at risk essential services for the care and health of people”, Recalls Guindani. On the other hand in the Bresciano a Facebook group whose members exchanged tips to make explosive devices (reported to Digos).

According to what he learned Wired, internet propaganda is driven not only by anti-5G movements and conspiracy theorists, but also by States who blow on the fire of disinformation for their own benefit. As future economic development depends on new communication networks, stopping or slowing down projects in a country is a weapon for the benefit of competitors. According to the European External Action Service, the Union’s diplomatic body, Russian media is pro-Kremlin sources they are leading a systematic denigration of the community response to the coronavirus, using, among other weapons, the “dark side” of 5G.

5G disinformation is increasingly taking on one geopolitical dimension: if we slow down on 5G, our companies will find themselves at a strategic disadvantage compared to Chinese or American international competitors. An infrastructure delay today translates into huge competitive disadvantages tomorrow”, Explains Alessandro Gropelli, communication director of Etno. In Europe, meanwhile, weapons are sharpened: for the June 6 the groups no 5G have announced one big protest across the Old Continent.

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