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The FCCs Failure to Fulfill Its Environmental Mandate A Look at the Agencys Neglect of Environmental Protection

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for safeguarding the environment from damage caused by communication infrastructure. This mandate includes protecting wildlife and human health, preserving historic sites, and preventing aesthetic blight. However, when companies seek to add new cell phone towers, build on protected land, or launch satellites, the FCC typically does little or nothing to address the potential environmental impacts. The agency’s neglect of environmental protection is particularly concerning as it presides over a nationwide buildout for 5G service, which will require 800,000 new “small cell” transmitters placed near schools, apartments, and homes. Despite this massive effort, the FCC has refused to revise its radiation-exposure limits and has cut back on required environmental reviews while restricting local governments’ control over wireless sites. Additionally, the agency’s approach is hands-off, delegating much of its responsibility to the industries it regulates and allowing companies to decide for themselves whether their projects require environmental study. In the rare instances in which the FCC investigates, even brazen illegality is often met with a minor fine or no action at all. The agency declined to make officials available for interviews for this article or to respond to questions sent in writing.

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