At the forefront of the Farragut community’s mind, state and federal elected officials shared their thoughts on 5G towers during Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Speaker Series, held online for the first time Friday, May 29.
“This has probably been the No. 1 issue that constituents have talked to me about in the last six months,” said state Rep. Jason Zachary (R-District 14, including Farragut) among local, state and federal elected leaders joining the meeting electronically.
“The Farragut community is the first community in the state in which Verizon (came in with 5G),” he added.
“Put them in Turkey Creek, put them in Campbell Station, put them on Kingston Pike, but Verizon, a for-profit company, should not be able to force into communities, into neighborhoods, a stinking 25-foot cell tower in somebody’s front yard.”
About his commitment to the issue, “I will go down swinging and fight this to the end, yet there’s only so much we can do because the FCC has ruled, and Congressman Burchett helped (state) Sen. (Richard) Briggs (R-District 7) and I about this,” Zachary said. “But we’re not going to stand for this, for a for-profit company to come in and put something where there’s really some serious health concerns for people we represent.
“Neighborhoods should have a say in what goes on,”
Other Chamber invitees joining the meeting were U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-2nd District) and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge).
“I think Jason and I have had to deal with this probably more than Congressman Burchett or (Lt.) Gov. McNally because of what all has been going on in Farragut, because it’s very controversial there,” Briggs said.
Briggs summarized the federal regulation, which goes back to 1933, as “no state or local statue, regulation law or other state legal requirement may prohibit or have the affect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.
“That’s the law that’s really been forced down on the Town of Farragut,” he added. “They’ve just been bullying ahead and putting up these towers.
“They have to put a tower every eight houses in the residential neighborhoods. But we can’t do anything to stop it. There’s another FCC regulation that came out in November 2018 that said you can’t even put a stay on (the) regulations. We’ve run into resistance where (the companies) don’t want to share the utility poles that are there, which would make this much more palatable to the neighborhoods.”
“The good news is in Farragut, we’re the only municipality in the state that has a planning commission, and every utility has to come before (the planning commission) before it can do anything,” Zachary said.
“We can’t stop them putting the telecommunications in — because that falls under federal law — but we can dictate how they do it and what it looks like when it’s finished,” he added.
While Zachary said AT&T has been good to work with over the last year, Verizon has taken the opposite approach.