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Indiana lawmakers will be asked to weigh in on 5G tower construction

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Internet providers, phone companies and other communications businesses are given the same access to Hoosiers’ utility right of way as water, gas and electric utilities.

State Sen. J.D. John Ford’s bill seeks to clarify where 5G cell towers can be built. North Willow Farms neighborhood on the north side of Indianapolis has six 5G towers and nine more are proposed. 

All of the towers are 47 feet tall and black with two panels on top. The first one was installed in the spring. Others followed over the summer.

The neighborhood homeowner association president, Eric White said no one contacted the neighborhood about the towers being installed. They found out through a public notice in a newspaper.

“So that started us on this process of learning how this was possible that a carrier could just place equipment somewhere without providing any sort of notification,” White said.

Some of the towers in North Willow Farms have been built in the utility right of way, next to water and electric lines. A few of the towers are in public spaces while others are in someone’s yard

Proposed legislation from the Democratic state senator would require more notification to property owners closest to proposed towers. He says too many people have come home to find the tower was already built.

Ford said, “At that point when you got a tower in your front yard and you are calling around to people and asking what’s going on — what is this? — and people are not calling you back, and if they are calling you back, there is really nothing they can do at that point. The tower is already kind of built. They feel helpless. They feel powerless.”

The Indianapolis city government requires cellphone companies to get permits before building 5G towers. Several of those permit applications have been denied, which has essentially stopped any further tower construction in the North Willow Farms neighborhood. Ford is hoping for a similar process statewide. 

“So the bill that I’m filing next session will help put the power back into the people’s hands. First of all, it will give them more notice. And I think that is what people want in this process is notice that a tower is going up in their front yard,” Ford said. 

This proposed legislation does not include studies of any potential long-term health or safety effects of 5G. Ford said the state also needs to better understand the technology and how it used before allowing the thousands of these towers to be built across the state.  

Ford is expected to file his bill this week. The General Assembly is expected back in the Statehouse next week.