Court Slaps Down Ajit Pai's Lazy FCC Ruling On 5G Safety, Likely Fueling Conspiracy Theorists
from the not-helping dept
To be clear, there’s absolutely no evidence that 5G wireless technology poses a meaningful impact to human health. Most of the conspiracy theorists that claim otherwise have a head full of pebbles, and are uniformly basing those claims on misinterpreted evidence or absolute gibberish. That doesn’t mean that you don’t want to continue studying cellular technology’s impact on the human body, or adjust your safety standards when the scientific evidence warrants.
In December of 2019 the Ajit Pai FCC announced it would not be updating its radiofrequency (RF) emission guidelines, which determine “safe” levels of exposure. The decision, Pai said, was based on a comprehensive six year review of the available evidence.
Yeah, about that.
Several groups that lean toward the… conspiratorial… had challenged the FCC’s decision, forcing a court review. And when the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit actually reviewed the FCC’s decision making process, they found that the FCC didn’t really do its due diligence in reviewing the evidence. The court stated in its order (pdf) that while there very well might be good evidence to not change the standards, the FCC under Ajit Pai didn’t actually provide it:
“Last Friday, the court ruled that the FCC?s decision in 2019 that its 1996 radio frequency emission guidelines adequately protect the public was capricious, arbitrary and not evidence based, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. The court also found that the analysis provided by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration, on which the FCC relied for its decision, was also not evidence based.”
Again that’s not to say that it wasn’t the right call to maintain the same safety standards, just that the FCC didn’t actually provide meaningful evidence in making that determination:
“To be clear, we take no position in the scientific debate regarding the health and environmental effects of RF radiation ? we merely conclude that the Commission?s cursory analysis of material record evidence was insufficient as a matter of law,? stated the order.”
Granted this whole “making a decision without looking at the actual evidence” thing was a bit of a pattern for the Ajit Pai FCC, whether it was its attempts to kill broadband subsidies for tribal lands, its attacks on media consolidation rules, its rulings on cell tower placements that largely favored industry, or its attempt to ban states from protecting broadband consumers. In every example Pai’s decisions were shot down by the courts after they found they weren’t based on much in the way of legally-supportable fact. Pai’s disregard for factual reality was also well represented during the net neutrality repeal.
In this case, the FCC’s laziness is now directly fueling conspiracy theorists like Robert Kennedy Jr., who will now use the FCC’s screw up as broader evidence that there’s some vast health conspiracy going on:
“The court?s decision exposes the FCC and FDA as captive agencies that have abandoned their duty to protect public health in favor of a single-minded crusade to increase telecom industry profits,” said Kennedy, in a statement. Kennedy has repeatedly claimed that the FCC is a “captive agency,” led and controlled by telecom industry insiders who are not objective about the health effects of RF radiation.”
It’s true that the FCC is historically a captured agency (especially under Trump). It’s also true that some of the Pai FCC’s laziness could be attributed to not wanting to upset the cellular industry. But that doesn’t automatically mean that 5G harms human health. That still needs to be proven by actual evidence. But because Pai didn’t do his job properly, that’s going to all get lost in translation.