Thursday, June 12, 2008

Santa Fe, Wi-Fi continued

In Santa Fe, Wi-Fi plan opposed by 'electrically sensitive'

Associated Press Newswires 10 juin 2008

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Camp out in a coffee shop or hole up in a hotel, but don't bother lugging your laptop to the library.
A proposal to put free wireless Internet service in public libraries and a handful of other buildings in Santa Fe has been delayed by objections from residents who say they are electrically sensitive.
"These are our last refuges," complained Arthur Firstenberg, a leading opponent of the Wi-Fi plan.
Firstenberg, who contends Earth is being engulfed in electromagnetic pollution -- "electrosmog" -- says he suffers headaches, nausea, discomfort in his chest and difficulty breathing when he encounters cell phones and other wireless technology.
Putting wireless in city buildings -- only one area of City Hall has it now -- amounts to installing barriers for him and others who are electrically sensitive, he argues.
The City Council asked the city attorney last month to research whether the opponents are covered by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. He concluded no: There's no legal case in which electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, has been found to be a disability, and no case in
which WiFi has been identified as the cause of EHS.
The council is expected to consider that report on Wednesday, and Councilor Ronald Trujillo hopes it will put an end to a debate that has been lingering for a couple of years.
Trujillo, a co-sponsor of the Wi-Fi plan, says he sometimes feels the nearly 400-year-old city "is a little behind the times."
"It's not 1692. It's 2008," he said. "Santa Fe needs to embrace this technology. It's here, and it's not going away."
Santa Fe's public libraries log more than 870,000 visits a year in a city of about 66,000. The 15 or so hard-wired computers at each location are in use "every minute we are open" and patrons seeking computer time must be turned away, said Pat Hodapp, the city's director of libraries.
Hodapp said an informal survey shows that since January, about 150 patrons a month have inquired about wireless.
"We have to inform them we don't have that available. They're astonished," added Hodapp, who first proposed the wireless plan to the city after a benefactor gave the library about $20,000 -- which remains unspent -- to buy laptops.

Public libraries are the number one point of online access for people who don't have the Internet at home, work, or school, according to the American Library Association. Nearly two-thirds of public libraries in the U.S. now offer free wireless access, the ALA says.
In Santa Fe, a town heavily dependent on tourism, library patrons also include many out-of-towners who want to check e-mail, secure boarding passes, and get tips on what to see while they're here, Hodapp said.
A new downtown convention center will open this fall and convention-goers will expect Wi-Fi in the building, said Simon Brackley, president of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, which has lobbied for the proposal.
"We would be irrationally unique not to have it available," Brackley said.
Actually, Santa Fe would be following the lead of the small northern California community of Sebastopol, where the city council in March voted to rescind an agreement made last year to allow a Santa Rosa-based company to provide free WiFi throughout the town.
The Sebastopol mayor cited concerns from citizens about possible health hazards.
Not all librarians in Santa Fe are on board with the proposal: In a letter to a local newspaper, six of them suggested Wi-Fi would preclude access for library users -- including epileptics -- who are adversely affected by electromagnetic fields. And they said it would be a boon only to those who can afford to buy laptops.
Proponents of Wi-Fi say there is no credible, verified link between the medical complaints and wireless technology.
They point to a 2005 World Health Organization fact sheet on electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, that says while the symptoms of EHS "are certainly real" and can be disabling for those affected, "there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure."
Firstenberg, who says his medical career was derailed 26 years ago by his electrical sensitivity and who now lives on Social Security disability payments, founded the Cellular Phone Task Force in 1996 to fight the proliferation of cell phone technology. He left his home in Mendocino, Calif., in 2004 to try to escape the bombardment of wireless.
Firstenberg says he knows Wi-Fi opponents whose symptoms include epilepsy, seizures, asthma attacks and heart arrythmia.
"It can be serious, and it affects more people than you may think. ... We are the canaries that other people should be paying attention to, as a warning that something is wrong," he said.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Santa Fe New Mexican 2008 June 8


Let us make one thing clear. Librarians opposed to Wi-Fi in public libraries are the strongest advocates of access to the Internet for all people, with connectivity that is faster and more secure than Wi-Fi can provide. Librarians opposed to Wi-Fi offer alternatives that are viable, legitimate, and do-able, and demonstrate that we needn't abdicate the long-held democratic values, policies and practices of our profession to provide access to the Internet that some would too easily forsake for the fool's gold of a wireless world. A shining example of the alternative in action is the National Library of France, the equivalent of our Library of Congress. France National Library recently placed a moratorium on Wi-Fi and exchanged microwave radiation for wired connections. They based their decision on scientific/medical research demonstrating harm from electro-pollution. The library consists of 15 million holdings located in four tower buildings, a staff of 2,500 employees and a budget of $254 million. The unabashed push by the Santa Fe Public Library administration and board to install Wi-Fi in the Santa Fe Public Libraries runs counter to the long-held policies and practices of librarianship. Let us tell you what librarians ought to be doing. It is our obligation as librarians to provide uncensored information to all people. These ideals, a) no censorship, and b) no barriers to access, are rooted in this profession. The American Library Association Bill of Rights and many other documents, policies and legislative efforts, enshrine these long-held ideals. A responsible administration and board would investigate the issue fully and keep lines of communication open. They would collect materials on electro-pollution and electro-hypersensitivity to provide educational opportunities for the public. Is it not improper, if not unethical, for our public library system to be handing out yes or no questionnaires concerning Wi-Fi without informing the public of the substantial scientific and medical literature which demonstrates harm? What duty is it of the public library to censor information and try to control public opinion? Is that not antithetical to its mission? The profession of librarianship takes access to information for all people very seriously. As librarians, we have never erected barriers to access and make every attempt to dismantle them. It is not acceptable to create barriers for people who are adversely affected by electromagnetic fields, including epileptics. Exposure can induce severe symptoms such as heart arrhythmias and seizures. Wi-Fi is a barrier for these people. The Library Services for People with Disabilities Policy states: "Libraries must not discriminate against individuals with disabilities and shall ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to library resources.” Under the facilities section, the policy states: "The Americans with Disabilities Acts requires that both architectural barriers in existing facilities and communication barriers that are structural in nature be removed." This statement indicates that Wi-Fi should be banned. How can the library administration and board disregard their own professional policies? Why is it acceptable to erect barriers to access for these people? Back in the 1970s, librarians brought computers into libraries to ensure that the "have nots" have equal access to the information highway. There is no comparison today with Wi-Fi in libraries. It does not narrow the digital divide or the socio-economic gap as is often claimed by Wi-Fi proponents. It simply perpetuates the inequities in society. Providing a Wi-Fi signal does not magically produce a laptop computer. It only serves those who own a laptop. Why should those who can afford a laptop get a "free" signal while those who can't are relegated to "sign up" for an hour of computer use? It is fallacious to claim that Wi-Fi will free up computers. Laptop users won't free up hard-wired computers because they don't use public access terminals. They have the money to buy a computer(s), unlike those who can't afford to buy one, so there is nothing to "free up.” The question of whether or not to install Wi-Fi in public libraries should not be a matter of convenience, opinion, or trendy and short-sighted decision making, but based upon the long-held traditions and values that librarians uphold for the good of all of us.
This statement, submitted by Diana Thatcher, expresses a consensus of six Santa Fe librarians from academic, public, state and special libraries opposed to Wi-Fi in the Santa Fe Public Library.
Patrons of the Santa Fe Baking Co. and Cafe make use of the restaurant’s free wireless Internet access. Some librarians in Santa Fe, however, oppose Wi-Fi in public libraries, saying that it would not serve the public good.


In a memo, the city attorney says he couldn't find a legal precedent where "electro sensitivity" was considered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. at: 06/11/2008 07:19:22 PMBy: Gadi Schwartz KOB-TV, and Joshua Panas

City attorney releases 'electro-sensitivity' findings

The battle to ban wireless internet in public buildings in Santa Fe hit the city council floor Monday night. In a memo, the city attorney says he couldn't find a legal precedent where” electro sensitivity" was considered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Arthur Firstenberg says he should have looked harder.” I receive social security because I'm disabled, because of electrical sensitivity," said Firstenberg. In fact, Firstenberg has been on disability for close to 20 years, and he says a federal judge ruled electric fields like Wi-Fi are the reason for his condition. "I'm in possession of a letter from an administrative law judge identifying me as being disabled by broadband, essentially Wi-Fi," Firstenberg said. But physicist Bill Bruno says the effects of Wi-Fi on humans needs more research. "There's not a lot of research funds available to work on that stuff, unless you’re funded by the cell industry," he said. City Councilor Ron Trujillo says the city attorney's findings are good enough for him.” There have been no cases that he has found to cause this reaction to these people, so I am hoping that now we can put this behind us and take a vote tonight and implement the Wi-Fi in libraries and community centers as well, "Trujillo said. The Wi-Fi in the city council chambers was turned off so electro sensitive members could attend.

Santa Fe City Council OKs plan for wireless By DEBORAH BAKER Associated Press !
Writer Article Launched: 06/11/2008 08:05:18 PM MDT FE—

The City Council voted Wednesday to proceed with a plan for wireless Internet service in libraries and other city buildings, over the objections of those who say they are electrically sensitive.” My first reaction is, it's a disaster. My second reaction is, they’re inviting a lawsuit," said Arthur Firstenberg, a leading opponent of the proposal. The vote was unanimous to provide free wireless by next year at three public libraries, a new convention center still under construction, city hall, the municipal airport and two recreation centers. Opponents who complain they are sickened by electromagnetic pollution say it will effectively block them from using the libraries and attending City Council or other meetings in city hall. City attorney Frank Katz, who had been asked to determine whether the opponents are covered by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, reported that there's no legal case in which electromagnetichypersensitivity has been found to be a disability, nor has any case identified WiFi as its cause. That "doesn't mean that someone couldn't bring a case," he also cautioned. Julie Tambourine, an advocate for the disabled and homeless, said after the meeting that the legal analysis was flawed, because it didn't take into account those with diabetes, seizure disorders, respiratory ailments and other conditions who can be adversely affected by microwave radiation.” They just seemed to be focused on one particular disability," she said. She also said the opponents could have been accommodated under federal law by having one of the three library branches be designated WiFi-free. City Councilor Patti Bushee proposed taking city hall out of the wireless plan—"since this is the local seat of democracy"—but that motion failed. Other councilors said wireless is a useful tool for them during meetings. The council chambers is the one spot in the city complex now that has wireless. Opponents of Bushee's motion also argued that wireless service bleeds into the council chambers from nearby businesses, so opponents wouldn't gain anything by having the city eliminate it there. Council Ronald Trujillo acknowledged the medical complaints of opponents, but said "right now there is no proof that WiFi does this." "This is technology ... The city needs to endorse this technology," he said.

After reading this last news item, you have to ask - could this be the start of a new form of a Californian 'soap opera'. Should the title be something like' Idiots in Council'? or Cooking your Constituents? or Microwaving your neighbours?