Sante Fe, New Mexico, OKs Wireless Despite Complaints From the 'Electrically Sensitive'

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.

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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 electromagnetic hypersensitivity has been found to be a disability, nor has any case identified Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi-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 Wi-Fi does this."

"This is technology ... The city needs to endorse this technology," he said.