Broadband Internet from Space: What Could Go Wrong?

Public health agencies have failed to safeguard the public and environment from dangerous wireless and cellular technologies that form the backbone of California’s economy.

Daniel Lichtenstein-Boris, MPH

Welcome to the future.  Space X, a private for-profit privately held corporation using the technology, funding, resources, and infrastructure of the United States Government, just launched sixty internet beaming satellites into space.  The launch of a space-centered internet system called starlink is the latest salvo in the US- China arms race over 5G wireless technology, along with US attempts to contain Chinese-backed Huawei. 

This 5G, or fifth generation upgrade of internet infrastructure, is necessary to operate fully autonomous systems—both robot soldiers, and workers.  This technology is widely seen as the technological backbone of both artificial intelligence and advanced robotics; self-driving cars, robot workers, and autonomous drones.  Elon Musk and other worshipers of big tech in Silicon Valley laud this new technology that will make most human manual and intellectual labor obsolete.  Already, Amazon fulfillment centers are staffed by robots, and Blackrock’s Aladdin artificial intelligence algorithm runs almost a tenth of global investment decisions. 

There are, however, some unpleasant environmental and public health side effects to this purported utopian vision.  The electromagnetic radiation emitted from a global wireless broadband systems beamed from outer-space may very well kill all life on earth.

A growing body of peer-reviewed research studies raise concerns about the immediate danger of ever increasing electromagnetic radiation emitted from a global network of cell phone towers and broadband wireless internet.  Cellphone use and tower proximity increases the risk of cancer in children; studies have shown that low frequency electromagnetic wireless internet signals disorients and kills beesbirdsinsects, and other species critical to earth’s biosphere, whose populations have been crashing.  The dangers of wireless technology proved by statistics is based on the same theories of physics and biology that heighten cancer risks for kids who study, live, and play near high voltage power lines.

Environmental and public health agencies at all levels of government have utterly failed to regulate emerging technologies, or warn the public of their health risks.  UCLA School of Public Health Professor Leeka Kheifets and UC Berkeley’s Joel Moskowitz have conducted and analyzed a massive body of evidence as to the health and environmental risks of wireless technologies.  As early as 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer labeled 2-G, pre smart phone cellular wireless technology a potential carcinogen. The California Department of Public health released a guidance document on reducing exposure to cancer risks from cell phones in 2017.  Other governmental agencies such as the Federal Communications CommissionCenter for Disease ControlFood and Drug AdministrationNational Cancer InstituteWorld Health OrganizationIsraeli Ministry of Health, the UK’s National Health Service, have issued guidance and reports with concerns for mobile phone and wireless technology, but to date no governmental body has been willing to prohibit, or even regulate dangerous technologies.

In October 2017, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 649, which would have scaled back local control of permitting process of small site 5G technology.    A massive outpouring of opposition from neighbors and communities concerned by the health risks of ever more powerful unregulated wireless devices organized by the California Alliance for Safer Technology forced the Governor to veto this Silicon Valley backed end-run around community control.  But in the quest for 5G supremacy, Elon Musk and SpaceX have circumvented local control entirely, by placing these 5G transmitters in outer-space.  The electromagnetic energy necessary emitted to transmit these powerful radiation beams to earth and back likely will increase risk to human, animal, and insect health even more than small site transmission blocked in many jurisdictions by local opposition.

The arms race between China and the United States to develop and implement dangerous 5G technology threatens human life; without pollinators, agriculture could not sustain earth’s population of animals and people.  But while it seems unlikely that either the US or Chinese government will deviate from a trajectory ending in mutually assured destruction, local and state public health departments still have a duty to protect their citizens.

It is ironic that a technology developed to protect national security may kill off essential pollinators, threaten agricultural production, and lead to both a national security and public health emergency.

Daniel Lichtenstein-Boris, MPH

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