Wireless Industry Sues City of San Francisco Over Radiation Law

Sep 8, 2010

By Kerrie Spencer, staff technology writer – September 8, 2010

San Francisco The wireless industry is highly competitive. Anything that threatens that leading edge is fought fiercely.

A good case in point is the latest tussle shaping up between the wireless industry and the city of San Francisco. The industry is suing the city over a law that will require all cell phone stores to post figures showing how much radio energy each phone model emits. You might recall the hoopla over brain tumors and using cell phones too much. It seems this law may, in part, be founded on that concern. It is, for sure, the first law of its kind in the U.S.

The wireless industry is up in arms over this law because they feel it will mislead consumers by making them think one phone is safer than another based on how much radio energy it emits. In addition, the suit alleges that the city overrode the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by creating and passing this law, as the FCC sets limits for phone radiation. There is actually no research that states, with 100 percent assurance, that cell phone radiation is a risk. There is information online that indicates there is research being done in this area, but that’s as far as it goes.

On the defendant’s side of the fence, they point out that cell phone users have access to the same information on the FCC website – meaning the law might be redundant if the information is already out there for the public to find. The city says there are protecting consumers by informing them. The plaintiff’s aren’t so sure that this is the case. Independent observers are wondering what the flap is about if the information already exists.

The law will mean that cell phone retailers will have to reveal how much energy may be absorbed into a user’s head. The FCC says the rate should be limited to the specific absorption rate of 1.6 watts per kilogram. You can look that up on the FCC website, but you won’t always find that type of information in stores.

From the plaintiff’s point of view, the law suggests that there is a safety distinction between two phones with different specific absorption rates – which isn’t the case, unless the limits are over the FCC boundary of 1.6 watts. According to the law, large chain stores will need to start posting phone emission ratings by February. Smaller outlets can dawdle on that until 2012.

While this may be novel legislation, something San Francisco is noted for, it hasn’t gone over well with the wireless industry. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case. If the information on cell phone emissions is available to anyone who wants it from the FCC website, why launch a lawsuit?

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