Just when you thought the war between proponents of Global System for Mobile communications technology and those who want Code Division Multiple Access technology to be used for personal communications services systems couldn’t get any dirtier, it did.

Billions of dollars could be made and lost in this technology battle, and any time that much money is involved, things are bound to get a little ugly.

CDMA proponents, led loudly by North American Wireless Inc. investor James Valentine, have been calling attention to claims that GSM digital phones used in Europe have caused some interference to people who wear hearing aids. Valentine’s latest attack has been aimed at Pacific Bell Mobile Services in San Diego.

Pac Bell has been before the San Diego City Council trying to get zoning approval on 12 antenna sites so it can quickly construct a PCS network in time for the Republican National Convention scheduled for August.

However, the city council postponed any decision on whether it will allow the sites to be constructed until March 19 while it researches the matter.

Let me say for the record, I am not an engineer and don’t profess to know which technology is better for what service. And I like it that way.

But I am pretty sure that the San Diego City Council should not be tackling hearing aid interference issues-at least not through conditional use antenna permits. It’s not the proper venue.

After all, the Federal Communications Commission has already approved GSM as a valid standard that can be deployed, so pointed out San Diego City Manager Jack McGrory.

But in taking the hearing aid interference issue to the council, the California Communications Council achieved three goals: it got publicity, was instrumental in getting a month-long delay during which Pac Bell will not be able to construct those sites and sent a subtle message to other PCS providers. Choose the “wrong” technology and we can come to your town and bring delays and bad publicity there.

Ultimately, the San Diego City Council should discover that land use permits are not the proper place to address the larger issue of hearing aid compatibility. And the city council should discover that the telecom reform act recently signed into law addresses hearing compatibility, so the city doesn’t need to make its own laws.

And the San Diego City Council could even discover the issue before it has little to do with interference to hearing aids and much to do with money to be made.


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