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Telecom lobby opposes city’s claim that RF is dangerous

Lawyer: Berkeley ordinance violates the First Amendment

WASHINGTON – A major telecom lobbying group has filed suit to strike down a Berkeley, Calif., city ordinance that requires retailers to warn customers about dangers associated with RF radiation.

Berkeley city officials passed the so-called Right to Know ordinance back in May.

The law requires electronics retailers to post warnings that read: “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is on and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation. This potential risk is greater for children. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”

Berekely Councilman Kriss Worthington described the intent during the vote. “The singular, only thing on which we’re legislating here today is on the consumer right to know. We’re not telling the consumers what to do.”

CTIA, The Wireless Association, announced on June 8 that it will seek a legal remedy to strike down the ordinance. CTIA reps said the consumer warning “requires retailers to make unsubstantiated and false statements about the alleged effects of cellphones, which would contradict the findings from independent health and scientific organizations.”

The Federal Communications Commission stated and confirmed its confidence that conservative health and safety standards for cellphones fully protect public health.

Leading global health organizations such as the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration all concurred that “wireless devices are not a public health risk.”

Theodore B. Olson of the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, which represents CTIA on this matter, said the ordinance “plainly violates the First Amendment. The ordinance also unlawfully interferes with FCC regulations and contradicts the federal government’s determination – based on extensive scientific evidence – that cellphones approved for sale in the United States do not pose a public health risk.”

Olson continued: “It is unconstitutional to force cellphone retailers to communicate false, misleading and inflammatory information about their products. It is unfortunate that Berkeley would incite unfounded public anxiety and fear about a product that is so important to its citizens’ everyday lives.”


Jeff Hawn
Contributing Jeff Hawn was born in 1991 and represents the “millennial generation,” the people who have spent their entire lives wired and wireless. His adult life has revolved around cellphones, the Internet, video chat and Google. Hawn has a degree in international relations from American University, and has lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Russia. He represents the most valuable, but most discerning, market for wireless companies: the people who have never lived without their products, but are fickle and flighty in their loyalty to one company or product. He’ll be sharing his views – and to a certain extent the views of his generation – with RCR Wireless News readers, hoping to bridge the generational divide and let the decision makers know what’s on the mind of this demographic.

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