April 1, 2019: The Brussels government does not intend to agree to a pilot project for offering superfast wireless internet 5G. “Brussels residents are not guinea pigs,” says Environment Minister Céline Fremault (CDH)
In July, the Region signed a protocol agreement on the roll-out of a 5G network. Brussels was to become the first city with high-speed internet in 2020. But it doesn’t seem to get that far. The current government will not be able to resolve the matter and the file will be passed on to the next government. A pilot project is not feasible with current radiation standards, and Fremault says in a conversation with news site Bruzz that she has no intention of giving an exception. “I cannot welcome such a technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected. 5G or not. The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs, the health of which I can sell at a profit. “The Brussels region has particularly strict radiation standards for telecom applications. The standard of 6 volts per meter has already led to problems in the past to offer fast mobile internet via 4G in the capital. Brussels standards are about fifty times stricter than those of the World Health Organization and the European Union.
The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs, the health of which I can sell at a profit.
Brussels Open VLD group leader Els Ampe thinks Fremault’s attitude is short-sighted: “Clinging to the past with a force of force is also bad for our health because blocking 5G prevents Minister Frémault from many medical applications.” Because there is no waiting time between transmitter and receiver, 5G technology can be used to conduct remote operations to gain crucial minutes, argues the Open Vld star. 5G also plays an important role in road safety, because it allows buses, cars, trams and other vehicles to communicate with each other instantaneously in order to avoid traffic accidents, Ampe adds.
Should we ban 5G for the time being?
No one knows for sure what the exact radiation and health effects of a widely rolled-out 5G network will be. In such a situation, therefore, should we not apply the precautionary principle and ban the technology until there is a consensus?
‘Applying the precautionary principle here in such a strict way would be too much’, westerink responds. ‘We would be too slowing down technological innovation. For example, we are already putting restrictions on radiation, with additional safety margins added to deal with this uncertainty. Most academics agree that we should stay within those margins, and that we should take seriously the complaints that individuals report.’
‘The debate is too polarised’, says Vandenbosch. ‘On the one hand there are the action groups, which I find too fundamentalist. If you do what they ask, our mobile connections no longer work. On the other hand, you have the companies that structurally underestimate things. They often believe that if there is no evidence there is nothing to worry about.’
Vandenbosch advocates a middle ground. ‘I think we need to meet in the middle. That’s why I’m in favor of the ALATA principle, which stands for As Low As Technically Achievable. As long as there is uncertainty about health effects, we must limit radiation. I think that’s the correct way to implement the precautionary principle.’