AT&T wants to put small antenna 10 feet from girl’s bedroom window

Carey Lai of Los Altos stands next to the utility pole where AT&T would like to install a small "node" antenna. The pole is in front of Lai's house and 10 feet from his daughter's bedroom window. Post photo by Emily Mibach.

Daily Post Staff Writer

A Los Altos man said Monday (July 8) he was shocked to get a letter from AT&T telling him that the company planned to put a small antenna on a utility pole 10 feet from his daughter’s bedroom window.

“I’m not an extreme guy. I’m a venture capitalist who invests in tech. I just think we need to be smart, safe and sensible in where we put these,” said Casey Lai.

Lai said the small antenna device called a “node” is unattractive, makes noise and may have unknown health effects, possibly cancer.

AT&T wants to install 11 of them in Los Altos to improve reception for its smartphone customers.

Lai said he thinks there are better places for nodes than residential neighborhoods, such as Loyola Corners or along El Camino Real.

Lai talked to his neighbors and to City Council members to see what they knew about the cell nodes. He discovered that most people didn’t know about nodes. Questions by Lai and other residents about the nodes prompted council to call a study session on the topic that was held Tuesday.

The study session examined how far the city can go in regulating the nodes, said City Manager Chris Jordan. And that’s exactly what Lai wanted to find out.

The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 stops local governments from prohibiting, either directly or indirectly, the provision of wireless services.

In September, the Federal Communications Commission furthered its regulations on local governments, saying that local governments can’t stop telecommunication companies from adding capacity to current nodes, stopping companies from installing 5G networks or improving service.

In addition, state and local governments cannot regulate wireless facilities based on concerns about radio frequency radiation they emit, as long as the emissions comply with FCC guidelines.

Some cities, such as Palo Alto, have passed some regulations limiting where nodes can go. Last month, Palo Alto’s council decided the nodes cannot be closer than 300 feet to schools. But some residents argued that the nodes should be at least 1,500 feet from schools and that they shouldn’t be placed in residential areas at all, similar to what Lai wants in Los Altos.

The issue has resulted in some boisterous Palo Alto City Council meetings last year, where some residents flipped off the council and another resident stood with his back to the council. Then-Mayor Liz Kniss had to call for a 10-minute break because of repeated yelling from angry residents, some of whom called out “not fair” when she asked the room how many of them owned cellphones.


  1. This is an example why it’s important to trust your city government. If I trusted our council and city manager, I wouldn’t worry about these nodes showing up all over town. But when I think of people like Jeannie Bruins, I fear the city will just roll over for AT&T. I don’t trust those people on council to stick up for the residents. And the city manager has show that he can be sneaky when he wants to push something that benefits him. Look how he got the Fridays off plan through without public scrutiny. I’d like to go back to the days when I could trust the city would do the right thing.

  2. Completely agree, Jay! After having fought a cell tower installation myself in Palo Alto, I found most of the city council members did not have the residents’ interests in mind, but rather their own interests in support of wireless companies. I agree that Palo Alto should extend the distance for the nearest cell node from 300 to 1500 feet. There is Research to support this. I think the way in which the city of Los Altos and AT&T have handled the process for installation, effectively sneaking it past residents is wrong, shameful, and unacceptable. I support Mr. Lai’s position on moving the cell node to a better location and am more than happy to join him in his fight to make that happen!

    • There is no credible evidence that supports a health hazard from wireless devices. Come on now, “Concerned resident,” if this had been an issue, we’d have seen droves of people from the 80s in hospitals because of their cordless phones. Wireless tech is wireless tech, and we’ve been using a wide array of bands and wavelengths for DECADES with no ill effect. If there was even the slightest hint of a a health hazard… say one tenth of 1 percent (0.1%) of people getting ill from wireless devices, our hospitals and doctors would be absolutely overrun with cases! Is this the case in reality? No. You’re living in a science-denying fantasy world. This “research” you didn’t cite isn’t credible.

      • On the health issue I agree. As a medical professional, health concerns from radio was is unfounded. HOWEVER, I am really annoyed by weird and abnoxious sounds. Loud or constant buzzing like what you hear under high power lines would drive me crazy. It’s not as if he knew this before buying there. Also there is the loss of real estate value for aesthetics and sound (properties under high energy power lines are less desirable and lower their value for that very reason). So I agree with him on those other two grounds. Radio waves will easily travel another 1000 feet without any loss of signal. Those nodes can be places away from homes and still be effective.

      • Apparently you are completely ignorant of the thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies showing harm to humans from various types of microwave radiation, including cordless phones, cell phones, wi-fi, smart meters etc. It is you is science denying, possibly to due casual ignorance, or perhaps, wilful ignorance. Have you not noticed the massive increases in diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain cancer, suicide rates, depression, tinnitus, insomnia and on and on? All of these can be caused by chronic microwave exposure, even at seemingly low levels.

  3. This article is sure to trigger the loons in the area, who wear tin foil hats and hear voices in their heads. They always come out against these small antennas, but they’re ignorant of the fact that they get more radiation from making a call on their smart phone than they’ll ever get from one of these antennas.

  4. Those tinfoil hat-wearing lunatics are the scum of the earth. I just saw a Facebook group for Santa Rosa where they stand across the street from these new nodes using these meters that ostensibly measure EM exposure… yet they’re filming with phones that are transmitting more power to their bodies than the nodes on the poles are 100 feet away.

    I’ve never seen such a histrionic, ignorant, science-denying group of people on the internet. Get lost and stay lost with your denial of reality.

  5. Look at the angry tech addicts raging irrationally against any threat to their lifestyle.

    Read the book “Overpowered” by Martin Blank Phd. He lays out the evidence for biological effects resulting from exposure to low intensity non-ionizing radiation, from both wireless tech, and the lower frequency power grid. Cancer, alzheimers, depression, anxiety, suicide, and more… higher incidence correlates with increasing exposure. Most of the this has been known for decades. It takes time for the effects to be seen in the population.

    Also, saying that people get hit with EM radiation from their phone and thus should not worry about cell infrastructure outside their home… that’s a non-argument. You can turn your phone off or put it in AP mode. You can’t turn off a cell node or antenna.

    It’s a giant biological/social experiment, and most people are willing guinea pigs who assume the established “science” is protecting them. Unreal.

  6. I completely second what Doug says. If its so safe why do the wireless companies try sneaky tactics such as making their notifications look like junk mail and trying to block any discussions about the health effects of radiation. Telling citizens they can only discuss the esthetics of the towers is like if Big Tobacco used the same methods to say we could only discuss how cigarettes looked, not what health effects smoke had on people…. BTW I find the angry rants resorting to name calling to be extremely immature and reflective of a an ignorant and uninformed person in general. Speak like a grown up adult or kindly don’t contribute to the written discussion.

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