A symposium was held recently at the Maple Street School, Manchester, on the theme Bring Your Own Device. At issue is how students access information, through wired or wireless technology.
Wi-Fi has become commonplace. Its use has expanded dramatically, driven in part by industry innovators churning out devices like iPads compatible only with Wi-Fi, and by the Federal Communications Commission in tandem with wireless carriers, whose intent is to create a captive wireless market.
In February, President Obama announced his ConnectEd initiative to provide 15,000 schools with high speed Internet, via Wi-Fi in classrooms. The FCC is contributing $2 billion, with U.S.companies like Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and AT&T adding another $750 million worth of free Internet, iPads and programming. To all appearances, it’s a win-win situation: Students receive pricey tablets and high speed Internet, while the FCC pursues its wireless agenda, which ultimately includes abolishing land-lines. Twenty-three states have already begun the process of abandoning the copper-wire landline and fiber-optic infrastructure, despite the fact that customers continue to pay millions in fees for maintenance and upgrades.
If approved by the FCC, Comcast’s $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable is troubling, not only in terms of keeping our landlines or by the creation of a mega-monopoly. "The real sea change in Wi-Fi came when the wireless operators started charging for data consumption around four years ago," said Craig Moffett, senior analyst at MoffettNathanson, a telecommunications and cable research firm. "Suddenly, there was a huge economic incentive to rely on Wi-Fi whenever it was available, and you started to see the consumption of Wi-Fi go through the roof." Comcast would provide "free" Wi-Fi to roughly one third of subscribers nationwide.
New FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was formerly president and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association from 1992 to 2004, which makes this revolving door especially disturbing. The FCC is not a health agency, but its purview includes regulating exposure levels of non-ionizing radiation, the type emitted by cell phones, Wi-Fi routers and "smart" meters.
Industry is not interested in finding the truth about non-ionizing radiation because it serves its interest to manufacture doubt. This trend has been covered for years. In a 2010 article in GQ about cell phone health hazards, Christopher Ketcham wrote, "In the mid-1990s, a biophysicist at the University of Washington named Henry Lai began to make profound discoveries about the effects of such frequencies not only on the blood-brain barrier but also on the actual structure of rat DNA. Lai found that modulated EM radiation could cause breaks in DNA strands -- breaks that could then lead to genetic damage and mutations that would be passed on for generations. What surprised Lai was that the damage was accomplished in a single two-hour exposure."
The U.S. Department of the Interior attacked the FCC this past February, citing failure to protect wildlife: "The electromagnetic radiation standards used by the FCC continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today." If the government is concerned about wildlife, why isn’t it concerned about our children? The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified RF as a 2B (possible) carcinogen, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends protecting pregnant women and children from wireless radiation. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has also issued warnings.
In America, we are willing to subject our students to daily immersion in radiation that damages DNA, leads to neurological disorders, causes headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, insomnia and heart arrhythmia. It impairs students’ ability to focus and learn. This is involuntary exposure on a massive scale, involving millions of our children.
Ex-CEO of Microsoft Canada, Frank Clegg, quit a lucrative career to focus exclusively on removing Wi-Fi from schools. Switzerland is removing it, France has removed Wi-Fi from its national library and recommends removal from schools, requiring its removal for Pre-K. The U.K. and New Zealand governments are shifting liability to school districts. The Israeli Supreme Court is hearing evidence on Wi-Fi in schools. Liability experts A.M. Best and Swiss Re SONAR say radio-frequency radiation poses significant risk to insurers and indicate insurance coverage for harm from electromagnetic radiation over the next decade would be "high."
Astronomical profit drives this industry, and the threat of astronomical loss through litigation may halt it. Isn’t the commonsense solution to wait before we let an industry bonanza jeopardize the health of today’s children and future generations? Let’s put the world at our students’ fingertips, but let’s do it safely with hard-wired technology.
Martine Victor is a resident of Manchester.