http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2011/02/18/att-plans-wi-fi-test-for-downtown-palo-alto


Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 18, 2011

AT&T plans Wi-Fi test for downtown Palo Alto

Three Palo Alto neighborhoods also identified for second pilot wireless project

by Sue Dremann and Zohra Ashpari

Downtown Palo Alto could soon have a Wi-Fi network as part of two pilot wireless programs planned by AT&T Mobility, but the unease that some Palo Alto residents have expressed about cell-tower technology over the past several years continues.

The Planning and Transportation Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing next Wednesday (Feb. 23) on the first of AT&T's plans — installing two, 12-inch-high Wi-Fi antennas at the Hotel President, a six-story apartment building at 488 University Ave.

Residents living on the hotel's sixth and fifth floors, however, have asked for a hearing, citing health concerns and invasion of their privacy by twice-monthly maintenance crews.

"We are troubled ... about giving permission in perpetuity to a corporation ... to enter our homes whenever AT&T wants or needs to, to maintain a commercial service," residents wrote in a Feb. 16 e-mail to city planners.

Sixth-floor resident Michelle Kraus wrote in an e-mail that AT&T's antennas put "the livelihood, health and safety of the residents of this historic Palo Alto residence in jeopardy."

"AT&T wants to place (the antennas) within feet, not even yards, of where most of us sleep and eat. Even the (Federal Communications Commission) and (National Institutes of Health) have varying views on the long-term safety due to exposure," Kraus said.

The antennas would be placed at each end of the hotel's balcony behind the railing and will not be visible from the street, AT&T's application states. The hotel has been an AT&T Mobility site since January 2000, according to the company.

AT&T has been aggressively upping its Palo Alto presence in the last year to accommodate the city's exponential growth in wireless demand, spokesman Lane Kasselman said. The company launched a technology-development center in Palo Alto in August and has been boosting weak signal spots with additional cell towers.

In addition to the downtown Wi-Fi network, AT&T is proposing to boost its wireless signals in the Old Palo Alto, Evergreen Park and Professorville neighborhoods. It would add antennas on nine existing poles, about 50 feet from the ground, at:

* 1221 Waverley St., opposite Waverley and Whitman Court

* 1664 Waverley St. at Lowell Avenue

* 179 Lincoln Ave. near Emerson Street

* 1401 Emerson St. near Kellogg Street

* 119 Coleridge Ave. near Alma Street

* 1865 Bryant St. near Seale Avenue

* 135 Rinconada Ave. near Alma Street

* 255 N. California Ave. near Ramona Street

* 395 Leland Ave. near Ash Street

AT&T is basing the locations on results of its Mark the Spot application, which allows iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android users to pinpoint weak signals and convey the information to the company, Kasselman said.

Residents of several streets within 600 feet of the second proposed pilot project received postcards from the city on Feb. 10 directing them to an informational website, www.att.com/wireless4paloalto, and requesting input.

The wireless boost, known as a Distributed Antenna System, would use a web of smaller, lower-power antennas rather than a single larger cell tower to provide service. This enables signals to skirt buildings or other structures that might otherwise block a single-source signal, the AT&T website states.

Residents who received the notice had mixed opinions.

"It doesn't bother me. The antennas might improve the Internet connection, but I don't go on it as much as my wife. I'm a dinosaur —I have a pay-as-you-go phone," John Malley Lawrence, who lives near 1664 Waverley, said.

Others had nagging concerns about potential health risks.

"We'd like to see research not put out by the AT&T Corporation, who is always for profit. I'd like to know if these antennas are causing any harm," said Diane Rolfe, who lives with her husband, Joe, near 1401 Emerson.

"More specifically, I'm concerned about how it may affect children's health, who are more susceptible than adults. Should these antennas be in a residential area?"

But Joe Rolfe had a different viewpoint:

"We've been surrounded by radio waves all our lives. X-rays are damaging because they have a high energy — more than a radio wave, which is harmless, in my opinion," he said. "There's a very little chance that these antennas will be a serious risk. However, I am not certain there will be no risk."

Clare Campbell, the city's project manager for the two proposals, said in an e-mail to residents that the city can't by law deny a facility on the basis of potential health issues. The FCC regulates radio-frequency exposure levels and AT&T must comply.

"The only issue the city has purview over is the aesthetics of a project," she said.

AT&T consultants said Wi-Fi antennas give off little radiation — up to 200 times lower than the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) threshold.

According to an October 2010 study by Hammett and Edison, broadcast and wireless consulting engineers, the Wi-Fi antennas would give off about 3 watts when operating at maximum power — about 0.5 percent of the FCC limit. Power output in other directions, including 63 feet down to the street, would be far lower.

Kasselman said having Wi-Fi in a busy downtown area would benefit customers, who can access service anywhere on the street within the signal area. The company chose downtown Palo Alto because it wanted to locate the Wi-Fi hotspot where there are large concentrations of people, he said.

Wi-Fi coverage would extend about 722 feet — less than 1/8 of a mile. Access would roughly extend on University from Starbucks near Florence Street east to Webster Street and slightly into the side streets to the south, according to plans.

Wi-Fi could also be beneficial in crises or in large events when everyone is trying to access mobile devices simultaneously, he said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by security, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm

What kind of security will this WiFi system provide? If I use an e-mail app on my iphone, will all my e-mail be visible to anyone within range of the WiFi signal?


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 17, 2011 at 11:09 pm

one way or another radio waves from your phone are being broadcast through the air to the wifi gateway/hotspot ... what do you think? Of course, so use encryption when you configure your email connection to your email server.


Posted by Flash, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 18, 2011 at 8:36 am

For once I have to agree with AT&T; complaints about poor iPhone reception downtown are no longer their fault, since they've been trying to improve the situation.


Posted by Clueless alert, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 18, 2011 at 9:04 am

"Sixth-floor resident Michelle Kraus wrote in an e-mail that AT&T's antennas put "the livelihood, health and safety of the residents of this historic Palo Alto residence in jeopardy."

"AT&T wants to place (the antennas) within feet, not even yards, of where most of us sleep and eat. Even the (Federal Communications Commission) and (National Institutes of Health) have varying views on the long-term safety due to exposure," Kraus said."

Ms Kraus does not know what she is talking about. She should stop listening to Tru Love.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

When electricity was first put into homes, people were genuinely scared of what might happen to them.

Radio waves are surrounding us in our homes all the time. From our microwaves, channel remotes, inhouse wifi, cell phones (yes cell phones) as well as radios, tvs etc. over the airwaves. Unless you live with 1930s technology then you can't complain.

I really doubt that those who complain about the cell towers live without all the other mod cons.

UXv6f


Posted by Wi-Fi-For-All, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2011 at 11:19 am

> "We are troubled ... about giving permission in perpetuity
> to a corporation

And how many residents of the President Hotel really believe that they are going to live forever?

We live in a town with a municipal utility, that only within the last few years actually requires bonding on the part of its employees. We are captives to a government-sanctioned labor union that thinks it can go just about anywhere on private property that they want, without any permission from the owners.

There is WiFi in most government buildings these days. Interesting that these same "permanent residents" of hotel have not seen fit to demand public hearings when these WiFi Access Points are installed in public areas.

It is almost beyond belief that people claim that Palo Alto has "the smartest people in the world". Just unbelievable!

The bigger question is if AT&T is going to make this service available in other neighborhoods too?


Posted by No-logic-for-all, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Wi-Fi-For-All is so illogical, it's hard to know where to begin.
1. Ms Kraus did not imply that they would live forever. It is AT&T that wants forever rights. I wouldn't allow antennas just a few feet from my living quarters either.
2. Wi-Fi-For-All can volunteer his home for an antenna, no problem.
3. Wi-Fi-For-All must be ignorant of the history of AT&T's shinanigans over many years, their bad customer service, government manipulation, and misrepresentations, to put it mildly.
4. An antenna right next to your living quarters is hardly the same as in an office building.
5. He provides evidence for his statement that we do not have "the smartest people in the world".


Posted by Jared Bernstein, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm

AT&T (née SBC) has proven itself to be irresponsible and predatory in many ways.
Notwithstanding that, I live near Waverly & Whitman, and I'd be so happy to have better AT&T reception at my house. Is the plan to put the antennas on top of a utility pole, or what?


Posted by Allen Edwards, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

The question of health risk from these low power signals has been studied and studied. There has never been any evidence of health risk. Saying that there are varying opinions on the issue is like listening to FOX news to get your facts. It just isn't so. Radio waves can either disrupt your DNA (X-Ray), which has nothing to do with these signals, or heat you (Microwave oven). Like I tell people, if you are not feeling hot, you are OK :-)


Posted by Wi-Fi-For-All, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm

> Wi-Fi-For-All is so illogical

> 1. Ms Kraus did not imply that they would live forever. It is AT&T
> that wants forever rights.

Anyone who is living in a residence hotel, and who is not an owner, can object to a corporation getting "rights in perpetuity" for a transmission tower because? Not only is this Kraus person not going to live forever (making her concerns about "in perpetuity" quite illogical, but it's doubtful that this person will live in the President Hotel until the end of her life. After moving out, of what possible concern can this person have about where these antennas are placed? Again, another example of how illogical this situation is.

> I wouldn't allow antennas just a few feet from my living
> quarters either.

There is not proven danger. So, objecting to these antennas has to be for some other reason that "logic".

> 2. Wi-Fi-For-All can volunteer his home for an antenna, no problem.

How does this point prove "illogical"? on Wi-Fi-For-All's part?. Wi-Fi-For-All would gladly offer, if his/her home were in a selected neighborhood. However, AT&T would more likely want a utility pole, which already has a public easement for access.

> 3. Wi-Fi-For-All must be ignorant of the history of AT&T's
> shinanigans over many years, their bad customer service,
> government manipulation, and misrepresentations, to put it mildly.

And this is proven where? And even if somewhat true, what does this have to do with any "danger" from a very low-power WiFi antenna?

> 4. An antenna right next to your living quarters is hardly
> the same as in an office building.

Again, if there is no danger of radiation exposure, then objecting to the antennas location is clearly irrational. There is no proven danger from these antennas.

> 5. He provides evidence for his statement that we do not
> have "the smartest people in the world".

This was an example of the use of "nuance". Kraus' objections are those of a Luddite, not a sophisticated, educated, Palo Altan. The City's response to this paranoia, by holding a public hearing, is an example of politics trumping solid engineering and science.


Talk about "illogical", this response hits the mother load!

If AT&T is reading this thread, and you're looking for some rooftops in the residential areas not served yet, I'll gladly participate.



Posted by registered user, Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Wii-Fi-For-All, it is Mother Lode, not mother load.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2011 at 12:20 am

I'm not a big believer in EMR causing cancer or cell death, or whatever, but I don't think it has ever been exactly rigorously ruled out. I use my microwave and cell phone, but I'm not sure I'd want to live right next to a cell tower.

The problem is we have a history of ignoring and hiding problems so we allow some people to make tons of money, and then other people feel the same urgent need to as well, and now we have a society that shoots first and asks questions later, while complaining and vilifying about anyone who wants proof or to ask questions now, or just plain says no thanks.

Why not put it on a pole mounted in the middle of a park or something ... or extend it up from one of our parking garages?

Another interesting example of this occurred to me recently. Everything is LED light now. I don't have a problem with most of this, LEDs are great at making light without making a lot of heat and the color of the light is pretty nice now.

What I don't know is what standard all the different brands and makers of light follow. There's an interesting video on You-Tube about removing the laser from a DVD player and mounting it in a flashlight ... and you pretty much have a laser death ray ... well at least if you at war with small ants. You can spark a match on fire with these things - they have enough heat to burn the inside of your eye.

So ... if LEDs can emit IR light, which we cannot see, and the line of that laser happens to track through your eye at the right speed it can scar your eye - forever. So ... when I pull up behind one of these fancy cars with 20,000 LED brake lights, how in hell am I supposed to know if these things have been tested or are following any kind of design spec, or indeed are following any design spec they are supposed to be following. If Chinese manufacturers can put poison in milk, I don't think they would bat an eye about using black market cheap LEDs for car brake lights. It would be tremendously hard to find this out before many people were injured.

Say 10 years from now we start seeing huge numbers of people with major vision problems. It does not help that in the present day someone tells me I am an unsophicsticated hick Luddite for questioning or bringing the question up. They are under no obligation to pay for my eye transplant in 10 years, they will be quipping about some other new technology and how great it is.


Posted by DeviceGuru, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2011 at 7:42 am

Is this free wifi or is it locked, for use by at&t subscribers only?


Posted by Let there be light, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2011 at 8:34 am

Anon,
You might want to read up on how LEDs work before spouting off on conspiracy theories. LED light is narrow band in wavelength, that is, a blue LED pretty much only puts out blue light. The spectral distribution of any LED light is easily measured and you can comfortably assure yourself that any "colored" LED does not emit IR radiation. LEDs are also not lasers and the light is not nearly as directional. The light coming from LED brake lights is no different than the light coming from an incandescent brake light with a red filter. In fact, because LEDs are more monochromatic, they are probably safer than incandescent lights in terms of the concerns you bring up.

As for the DVD laser "death ray", you can do the same thing with a magnifying glass and the sun. In fact, you could probably do the same thing with a regular flashlight and an appropriate lens.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm

LTBL, that was not a conspiracy theory, it was a question. As I said ...
so ... tell me what is going on here .... Web Link


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm

OR ... Let there be light ... how is it that they found and arrested people who are using their laser pointers to shoot at pilots in planes, or why they are concerned about damaging their vision? Your comments are just exactly what I have been talking about - unconditional support of technology and business without rational.

And, someone cannot creep up on me and put a magnifying glass between me and the sun and shine the focus point into my eye like they could with a laser from miles away.

"Probably" - that's a great thing to base your argument on.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2011 at 1:07 pm

>> The light coming from LED brake lights is no different than the light coming from an incandescent brake light with a red filter.

Really ... would you like to bet on that, and then go to a physicist and Stanford and ask them ... Having gone through the physics with calculus series for engineering I am pretty sure you incorrect about that.

How about this .... Web Link


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Or this .... Web Link


Posted by Let there be light, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Anon,
"Really ... would you like to bet on that, and then go to a physicist and Stanford and ask them ... Having gone through the physics with calculus series for engineering I am pretty sure you incorrect about that."

Well, I can just ask myself (as my degree in physics from Stanford should suffice). Look, the LEDs in taillights are NOT lasers. It's true, lasers can be dangerous, especially when people hack higher power lasers into laser pointers and such. The Youtube videos you linked to showed not only custom made lasers, but also lasers that employ optics to specifically focus the light. But again, those are lasers, not LEDs.

As for shining laser pointers into peoples eyes. Commercially available laser pointers are typically less than 5mW. If it is shined into a person's eye, most people's blink reflex is fast enough to prevent any damage. However, the distraction can certainly cause problems for pilots, drivers, etc. Of course, someone can make their own laser (or use a commercial laser not intended to be a pointer) that can cause pretty immediate eye damage and that is a concern.


Posted by JT, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2011 at 1:16 am

It's time we put a stop to all of this radiation. Let's make Palo Alto a "Radiation Free Zone," similar to what we did in the 1980s when we declared our town a "Nuclear Free Zone." The "Nuclear Free Zone" was very successful. We were never struck with a nuclear warhead, not once. But back to AT&T. We not only need to stop this AT&T antennae but demand that the city remove other antennae downtown. Personally, I'm feeling the effects of all of this radiation in my day to day life. At times I hear voices. It's very disturbing, and it's all due to the big mega corporations making profits off of the poor. Let's ban all forms of radiation. And until that day, I'm wearing protective gear to stop the radiation rays from penetrating my skull.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2011 at 4:14 am

> Well, I can just ask myself (as my degree in physics from
> Stanford should suffice). Look, the LEDs in taillights are NOT lasers.

Your earlier statement:
> The light coming from LED brake lights is no different than the
> light coming from an incandescent brake light with a red filter.

Would you care to modify that statement?

If the light coming from a red LED is monochomatic red ... why is
there red plastic filter around it?

Your second statement is incorrect, or let's say not a statement I
believe a physicist would make because there are differences. You
could be a physicist, but familiarity with LEDs/Lasers might not
be your specialty. I'm fairly skeptical of EMR danger to cells, but
I have seen nothing that rules it out. I do draw the line at
vaccines causing autism though, but there are still risks associated
with vaccines which can even be fatal.

My point is not even that tail-lights on cars are lasers or could be
dangerous. Frankly I don't like pulling up behind a car with 100
LED brake light shining in my eyes any more than I like the very bright
incandescent headlamps that shine in my eyes. The point is that we
don't know everything, and authority is often wrong or acting in service
of money.

Here is an example: ( blue light hazard, from Wikipedia )

In ophthalmology, high-energy visible light (HEV light) is high-frequency light in the violet/blue band from 380 to 530 nm in the visible spectrum.[1] HEV light has been implicated as a cause of age-related macular degeneration.[2][3]
Some sunglasses are now designed specifically to block HEV.[1]
[edit]Blue-light hazard

Blue-light hazard is defined as the potential for a photochemical induced retinal injury resulting from radiation exposure at wavelengths primarily between 400 nm and 500 nm

Just today a friend was telling me about a woman who worked in a laser skin treatment facility for several years treating people with lasers. She has severe damage to her eyes, though she wore safety glasses which she received a legal settlement on.

What about supermarket lasers. You say your eyes can blink in response to bright flashes, but once the eye perceives the bright flash some part of it has already been exposed and over a long period of time that is going to affect people. Also, if there is IR laser light your eye will not see it at all and it would be difficult if not impossible to track or prove.

The point is not about being a luddite and stopping technology, I like technology, the point is what is reasonable engineering design given that we may not know everything? Like is it reasonable to fill up our atmosphere with carbon dioxide when we don't really know the long term consequences of that, or exposing the body to chemicals that have never existed in nature before?


Posted by Let there be light, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 20, 2011 at 9:49 am

Anon,
I'm sorry if my explanations are not too clear as I've been trying not to get too technical. There is a very big difference between a monochromatic red laser with a FWHM of one or two nm and a red LED with a FWHM of 20nm. Sure the LED is "monochromatic", but nearly as much as a laser. Also, LED light is not coherent. That's the reason why a laser is a beam and LED is not. Even if LED light is focused, it's little different from focusing light from an incandescent source (true, LED is somewhat directional, but it still isn't coherent). Notice that LED flashlights still require a mirror cup to create a beam, just light a regular flashlight (and something that lasers do not require).

LED brakelights are covered in red plastic so that they also REFLECT red light and appear red when the brakelights are not on. This link has a pretty nice graph on the different spectra of different light sources: Web Link

You will see that a mercury vapor lamp (typically the lights in streetlights) have very narrow spectral bands. A red LED would be similar to the blue peak in a white LED shifted over to the red region (most white LEDs are just blue LEDs with a phosphor that emits a wide peak in the yellow region).

"My point is not even that tail-lights on cars are lasers or could be

dangerous. Frankly I don't like pulling up behind a car with 100

LED brake light shining in my eyes any more than I like the very bright

incandescent headlamps that shine in my eyes. "

That's a fair statement, but the light is no different. Photons are photons and the only difference would be in the intensity. The irony is that most LEDs these days are not bright enough compared with incandescent sources. In the visible region, it's not the wavelength that causes problems, but the intensity. Lasers used in laser surgery are orders of magnitude more powerful than supermarket laser scanners. Here is a brief summary of laser power safety: Web Link Note that supermarket lasers are typically Class II.

I guess my point is that lasers and LEDs have been around for over 50 years and their properties are very well studied and understood. The safety regulations around their use are also very extensive. I know because I once worked on a product that included multiple lasers and had to go through the regulatory approval process.


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2011 at 9:26 am

Wow, what a rathole.

I support having more lower-power antennas rather than have a smaller number of bigger powered ones.

It's amazing to see such luddites here in the middle of Silicon Valley. But there you go. It's probably the same group of people who think that vaccines cause autism or something. I expect that from San Franciscans, but I'm disappointed to see it in Palo Alto as well.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

I wonder which gives off more radiation vs proximity, a baby monitor or one of these distributed antenna systems? There are also femtocells you can get now for your home that are basically like a wireless router for your cell phone. Eventually, most of the coverage in residential areas will likely come from either the femtocells or distributed antenna systems. Web Link


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Thanks for the information Let There Be Light ... my analogy was to say the least imperfect, though I think the links I posted were correct about the light, and the laser light injuries support my basic premise - we don't know everything. I still would not want to live beside a cell phone tower, though I'm not ready to get rid of my cell phone. My tin foil hat will protect me! ;-)

Do you have any info on what long term lifetime exposure to ubiquitous laser light in supermarket, home depot, etc is going to have on people's eyesight? Do we know what effect watching B&W/Color CRT TVs/monitors had on us for the last 50 years? Just curious.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm

There was a solicitor from AT&T going door to door in our neighborhood last week. I refused to talk to him, because I don't feel safe talking to any stranger at my door. My neighbor called the police because she thought he was a fake, but the police officer verified that he was employed by AT&T.
Was that visit connected to this issue? Why is AT&T sending a strange man to my door instead of just mailing information?


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm

I keep getting mailers from AT&T about coming in and getting a new free phone because they say my current phone gets bad reception in the area I live in. I experience no problem now, and I like my sleek small profile phone, why do I need to fix what is not currently broken?