SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A multi-billion dollar digital debate is heating up in California. Elected officials from across the state are in Sacramento pushing back against new cellphone technology.
But a bill that'll add thousands of cell transmitters to small communities just sailed out of another Assembly committee.
"There's a huge amount of money behind this," said Kevin Bash.
Kevin Bash is talking about cell phone companies. The councilman of the city of Norco is in Sacramento, trying to keep them from forcing his city to install thousands of new cell transmitters almost anywhere, from street lights to traffic poles.
"We're 'Horse Town USA;' we're the last city in the state of California by law you build on half an acre or more, now we have cell sites. What's worse? I'm going to get calls from people saying why's this refrigerator on the horse trail?" he said.
But "Horse Town USA" isn't the only town fuming about bulky antennas and boxes, and over losing control to telecom giants.
"It shoves upon us unneeded wireless radiation 24/7 in residential zones," another official testified.
Hundreds of fellow elected officials from across the state spilled into the hallway of an Assembly Committee, Wednesday. The problem is, the opposition is outspent. The big four: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, say more cell phone towers means 10 times faster internet, more access, and better service.
"That next generation 5G will rely significantly on the small cell technology that is the subject of this bill, and maybe as important a component of our country's infrastructure as anything," a cellphone company rep testified.
And phone companies have lined up major support, from disadvantaged communities to small businesses to emergency agencies.
"This means that there's a real possibility that response times will be faster and locating those in need will be more accurate," said fire chief of El Dorado Hills Dave Roberts.
Both Democrats and Republicans are also for the bill. It sailed through the Senate with one no vote, and as it heads to the Assembly, Bash and fellow officials call it a high-stakes battle over political power and money.
"I understand that this is a hugely hugely funded effort by the cell companies, but you get to be Jimmy Stewart in 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.' You get to say wait a minute I'm for the people," said Bash.
The bill moves onto another Assembly committee before heading to the full Assembly floor. But city officials say the next step for them may be in the courts.
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