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Controversy grows as mini 5G cell towers pop up everywhere

Mysterious orange PVC pipes are popping up in communities everywhere, stamped with the words "fiber optic".

They may not be for home internet and TV signals but rather to hold the connecting cables for mini 5G towers.

Homeowners on many quiet, tree-lined streets are worried that they will soon have mini 5G cell towers all around them, like it or not.

Anna and Andrew Steele, a young couple who recently bought a home, said they don't like the idea of being the trial community for 5G.

"For me, I'd rather not be the guinea pig," Andrew Steele said.

"That would be terrible, Anna Steele said. "That would be horrible. Also, do we really even need it?"

What is 5G, and why is it coming?

We do need it, according to Verizon, AT&T, and the FCC, which recently passed sweeping rules allowing cellphone companies to install 5G towers with only minimal state and community approval.

5G is almost 100 times faster than 4G LTE service, and cell companies say it will be needed for high-speed streaming video and increasing interconnectivity in the years to come.

But for 5G speeds to be so impressive, wireless companies need more towers and fiber line connecting towers, according to AT&T and Verizon. The wireless association CITA estimates 800,000 mini towers will be needed in the US in the next 20 years.

As a result, carriers are putting them up on telephone poles, on the sides of office buildings, even in lampposts. To keep them from being so unattractive, wireless companies are hiding them.

In Florida, they are camouflaging 5G towers in fake palm trees. In Arizona, they are building metal cactuses to hide 5G towers. In Colorado, towers are being hidden inside phony evergreens.

Towns launch petitions

Some homeowners such as Monique Maisenhalter said they worry that towers might end up right outside their bedroom window.

"Some say it will be every three to 10 houses," she said.

She cited studies from environmental groups worldwide, claiming that cell tower radiation -- up close --  can possibly cause health issues.

"This is harmful. There are decades of research saying this is harmful," Maisenhalter said.

She is leading a petition drive asking for a stop to any 5G construction in her village until more is known.

"Even if people don't think it will hurt them, it is enough to lower property values because many people are not sure," she said.

Among those signing the petition is Keith Owen. "None of us are having any trouble with our (4G) cell service, so why do we need 5G?" he said.

Owner is a mystery

Many communities are finding these fiber lines, and mini towers up above, are going up without zoning or other hearings.

One county engineer, Ted Hubbard, said he, too, is struggling to find out who is laying the fiber and what their plan might be.

"The ownership is a big question," Hubbard said. "And I have asked that. We are having a hard time finding out who actually owns it."

Hubbard said several small contractors have received permits to install the lines but won't tell the county who is behind the whole project.

"Who's going to operate it?" Hubbard asked. "And who do we contact if there is an issue?'

Several of the poles, on closer inspection, have "Verizon" printed on them.

We asked Verizon if they are installing 5G in the area but received no direct confirmation.  Verizon spokesman Joon Choi said "the only 5G cities we have announced so far are Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento."

Will these mystery poles become 5G towers? No one will say.

Still, some homeowners like Helen Booker say they feel the health concerns are overblown, saying it is just like when people first started using cell phones.

"I don't mind because if it's going to help people get better reception, I think it would be very beneficial," Booker said.

Others such as Andrew and Anna Steele say they simply want more answers and the chance to have some input before 5G towers spring up all around the tree-lined streets in her neighborhood.

"Isn't there some kind of say that we have?" she asked. "Do we get a chance to say, 'Hey, we don't want this?'"

She worries she may not. It’s a controversy that is just getting started in many communities.

As always, don't waste your money.

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