Santa Fe WIFI catastrophe

From Arthur Firstenberg

I am back sleeping in my house as of yesterday. Evidently many of you who live in Santa Fe began suffering at the same time I did, regardless of whether you live close to the tracks or not. Also, the system is not fully built yet. So, what has affected many may not be related to the Rail Runner. But what I have learned about the WiMAX project, and what is coming, is very serious. It has also been difficult to get the information.

1. The Rail Runner contracted with Inx Co. to put WiFi on the train. Inx subcontracted with Azulstar. Azulstar uses “WiMAX wireless backhaul technology” provided by an Israeli company named Alvarion, and the system they are using, called BreezeMAX 3650, operates at a frequency of 3650 MHz (3.65 GHz). They’re calling it “4G” technology, and 1000 people are supposed to be able to use the internet on the train at the same time. You can see the Alvarion antennas mounted on top of the Rail Runner cars. They are small white rectangles standing on their point.

2. The 3.65 GHz spectrum is basically a new unlicensed spectrum approved by the FCC for WiMAX in 2007. Unlike all the old unlicensed bands, which limited antennas to a maximum of 1 watt, antennas transmitting at 3.65 GHz are allowed a power output of 25 watts, which makes them very powerful indeed. The towers that are going to be built every half mile along the tracks will not be omnidirectional, as I at first thought, but they could legally put out 25 watts each. If this is so, people who live near the tracks are going to be in real trouble, especially if they are already electrically sensitive. Completion of the system was advertised to be at the end of June. The small rectangles on top of the trains are 1 watt antennas.

3. At present these WiMAX relay towers have only been built along the tracks between Belen and Albuquerque. According to train employees, none of them have been installed north of Albuquerque yet, and the WiFi signals presently on the trains here are operating off a satellite signal. But the trainmen did not seem very knowledgeable. I don’t know if there could be a base station tower installed somewhere in Santa Fe.

4. Azulstar already launched citywide WiMAX service at 3650 MHz in Rio Rancho and in Albuquerque, last September. Santa Fe can’t be far behind, and once the antennas are installed along the Rail Runner route, it will be simple to extend the network to blanket the rest of our city.

5. WiMAX is not the same as WiFi. You can’t connect to the Internet for free everywhere. To connect to the Internet, you need to pay for service and install a transciever on your house or business. Legally, it appears that all these customer antennas are also allowed to emit up to 25 watts. The raised power limit makes WiMAX much more flexible than WiFi, and much more dangerous. A company could have customers 30 miles away with powerful antennas on central towers and/or customer’s homes. It also means that although WiMAX does not blanket the streets with 2.4 GHz radiation everywhere, it does blanket the streets with 3.65 GHz radiation everywhere, and that exposure levels will be much greater.

6. There are 5 antennas that have already been built along the train right-of-way in and around Santa Fe. I don’t know what they are for. They are mounted on 30-foot towers: (a) at the intersection of St. Francis and Cerrillos; (b) at the intersection of St. Michael’s and the railroad tracks; (c) south of Rodeo Rd. along the tracks next to the freeway; (d) and (e) on the freeway between the St. Francis and Cerrillos exits.

7. The City and County of Santa Fe both have antenna ordinances that require a special permit process for each and every tower located on city and county land. These ordinances are supposed to control the proliferation of antennas. The City ordinance was written and pushed through nine years ago by Merida Blanco, whom many of you may remember, with the help of Seely Solomon, whom many of you may also remember. The Rail Runner is securing Tribal approval for any antennas it is locating on Tribal lands, but I don’t think the City or County is asking the Rail Runner to comply, and the building of so many new antennas at once would make a mockery of what Merida and Seely worked so hard to accomplish. The Rail Runner is run by the State Dept of Transportation, so the city probably can’t force the state to comply, but a request could be made. The permit process within the city would mean either public hearings, or an administrative process in which the public would be involved. People who live near the tracks would be able to give their input, as well they should.

8. On April 1, 2009, Alvarion’s BreezeMAX technology received approval by the USDA Rural Utilities Service for use in government-funded broadband networks. On April 28, 2009 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA is accepting applications from states, local governments, corporations and Indian tribes to bring broadband service to presently unserved areas. This means that this same 3.65 GHz technology that is about to pollute the Rail Runner corridor could shortly pollute all of New Mexico, courtesy of federal government dollars.

If anyone has any information different from or in addition to any of the above, please send it to me. Thank you.

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