Rise of the Machines: FirstNet=Skynet, yes as in THAT Skynet


The Middle Class Tax Act has gifted Homeland Security a program called FirstNet (National Wireless Public Safety Network) which is funding the rollout of giant towers in metro areas- starting with a proposal for 47 microwave-emitting towers, including 15 mobile towers and 2 possible satellites in Los Angeles. FirstNet is partnering with corporations like Motorola and General Dynamics and offering communications services to first responders.

The question is, are emergency services in need of an upgrade or is this an excuse to put up more wireless infrastructure (by invoking America’s most respected profession- the firefighters and image of 9-11) that either isn’t needed or could be deployed by putting transmitters up on existing poles or heaven forbid, be transmitted by wireline infrastructure?

Here is how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) describes FirstNet: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Fact%20Sheet_Nationwide%20Public%20Safety%20Broadband%20Network.pdf

The Los Angeles Firefighters themselves said “No thanks, not at our firehouses” and the Los Angeles Police Protective League stated the towers should be scrapped, (although the sheriffs weren’t opposed).  The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors put a moratorium on the plan but are re-configuring the plan (Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications or LA-RICS) and looking at neighborhoods where there is no opposition (yet).

Network News Coverage of LA-RICS: http://abc7.com/news/la-supervisors-stop-cell-tower-construction-at-fire-stations/571612/  http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/video/11273000-la-county-firefighters-address-lawmakers-over-cell-tower-concerns/

C-SPAN Coverage of FirstNet: http://www.c-span.org/video/?324780-1/hearing-public-safety-broadband-network-progress

The International Firefighters Union passed a resolution in 2004 stating that cell towers should not be built on firehouses after a pilot SPECT brain scan study showed that six firefighters had brain abnormalities after living with a single tower on each of their two stations for five years.  The firefighters then followed up with these contributions to the body of knowledge of biological effects of radiofrequency radiation presented at the 2006 Benevento Conference of the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (ICEMS):

http://www.icems.eu/docs/Foster.pdf  http://www.icems.eu/docs/Foster_talk.pdf  http://www.icems.eu/docs/IAFF.pdf and the powerpoint slides in the second to last entry here: http://www.icems.eu/materials.htm

Is the purpose of these towers to get streaming video of every street corner in America to get biometric applications like facial recognition technology, mobile iris scanning, automated license plate recognition and/or to link in the NHTSA’s V2V program that will transmit vehicles’ location, direction and speed as well as to instantly download medical records into ambulances or give firefighters blueprints of burning buildings or for some other purpose?  Is Homeland Security just getting private companies to pay for this so they have a beach-head for future infrastructure or programs or to use the Telecom Act to claim these are Personal Wireless Service Facilities so that they can get expedited zoning approvals? Or is it the other way around- just a clever way to assist the cellcos in getting more real estate footholds for 4G, 5G, etc…? 

Probably a bit of both…in the past cellcos would say they were putting up “emergency communications towers” as a way to get cell phone infrastructure up for the private sector with less opposition (you wouldn’t want to vote against a “communications tower” for the emergency responders, would you?).  Now it appears that the same emergency communications ruse is being put up for the dual purpose of putting up next generation wireless technologies and Homeland Security functions.

The National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) endorsed the use of video surveillance here.  The Bechtel Corporation, which has a long history of building out infrastructure for the military industrial complex, discusses capabilities of FirstNet in a memo to the NTIA here. While the Middle Class Tax Act funds FirstNet, it doesn’t follow that the legal authority exists to force the installation of these information gathering technologies; nor does the legal authority exist to entitle the federal government to real estate to deploy the infrastructure….hence the end-run to partner with cellcos…

A local advocate’s video about the unlawfulness of the plan and misinformation promoting its rollout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soIvrkfKg-I&feature=youtu.be

2014′s Frontline program, United States of Secrets, which discussed Snowden, warrantless wiretapping and the Patriot Act, featured a segment on an ISP CEO who refused to turn over emails and customers’ personal data to the government carte-blanche: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/government-elections-politics/united-states-of-secrets/how-the-u-s-govt-turned-silicon-valley-into-a-surveillance-partner/

The successful refusal to genuflect to the demand which was made in the name of “national security” demonstrated that the Federal government was attempting a power grab for which it did not have legal authority.  In fact, a federal judge ruled the request unconstitutional.  In the interim, Congress amended the Patriot Act, providing more specificity for the standard in question, and the FBI withdrew its request for information from the ISP CEO and later partially lifted the non-disclosure provision in the request.

The point is, the government makes up rules as it goes along and hopes that someone won’t take it to court and get a judge to scrutinize its activity.

FirstNet represents a similar move; if people fail to make the government explain its rationales, they will be leaving rights on the table and letting the government run roughshod over them.

Recent Developments Re: Los Angeles, NTIA, firefighters, LA-RICS:

The decisionmakers (LA County Board of Supervisors), who were at least responsive to pressure from the firefighters and police, and theoretically should be responsive to constituents in other neighborhoods where the towers are now slated to go:

Michael Antonovich (Chair) (213) 974-5555 FifthDistrict@lacbos.org
Hilda Solis (213) 974-4111 FirstDistrict@bos.lacounty.gov
Mark Ridley-Thomas (213) 974-2222 MarkRidley-Thomas@bos.lacounty.gov
Sheila Kuehl (213) 974-3333 Sheila@bos.lacounty.gov
Don Knabe (213) 974-3333 Don@bos.lacounty.gov

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