Senator raises concerns about 5G interfering with weather satellites

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is urging the Trump administration not to allow wireless companies to operate 5G communications on a 24 GHz spectrum, citing concerns that doing so could damage the effectiveness of U.S. weather satellites.

On Monday, Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a letter warning that the ongoing sale of wireless airwaves could harm forecasts and predictions relied on to protect safety, property and national security.

“Millions of Americans live in areas under increasing threat from hurricanes, tornadoes, and other extreme weather events. The U.S. military and our aviation, maritime, and numerous other industries rely on accurate forecasting information every day to ensure safety and make crucial decisions,” Cantwell said in a statement.

“We can’t afford to undermine our data and set the quality of weather forecasting back to the 1970s. Instead of overruling or ignoring the experts, the FCC and the administration should look at the science, listen to experts, and take the time needed to get this right.”

The letter asks FCC Chairman Ajit Pai not to allow wireless companies to operate in a 24 GHz band until weather forecasting operations are protected.

Cantwell’s office released a U.S. Navy memo that concluded that reducing the accuracy of weather forecasts could threaten the safety of aircraft and naval vessels and reduce military awareness of battlefield conditions.

The memo says remote sensing in the 23.6-24 GHz band is used to determine water vapor and due to the physical properties of the atmosphere, is the only frequency band for this measurement.

The senators detailed concerns from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and members of the American Meteorological Society about damage to the quality of U.S. weather forecasting.

The Navy said NOAA and NASA have conducted studies that show interference for the 23.6-24 GHz band from the adjacent 5G band, which the FCC began auctioning to wireless companies on March 14.

“People in the Pacific Northwest know what storms are all about,” Cantwell said. “We know what hot, dry seasons are doing to us as it relates to fire. And so we need the weather forecasting, and we need it in advance. We don’t need it three days out, two days out. We need to know where and how to get the resources to the location.”

Emerging 5G technology has been a topic of debate for the Clallam County Planning Commission, which heard from dozens of people who urged the county to prohibit implementation of the technology.

Many cited health concerns during the discussion.

The Planning Commission has recommended an amendment to the wireless facilities ordinance to the Board of County Commissioners that still allows 5G, but limits where new towers can be placed.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.

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