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A local group tried to keep 5G—fifth generation cell phone technology—out of Blaine County to no avail.

Ketchum City Council members on Monday reviewed the city’s policies for permitting wireless communication facilities, in anticipation that cell-phone companies could soon seek to implement 5G technology in the area.

Council members discussed the city’s ordinance governing wireless facilities and listened to a brief summation from City Attorney Matt Johnson. Johnson said the city has authority over some aspects of wireless facilities—such as location and appearance—but that its “hands are tied” by the federal government on matters pertaining to alleged health effects of the facilities.

Some major cell-phone providers are aggressively moving from 4G to 5G wireless technology. While 5G technology is considerably faster at transmitting data than 4G, people in many locations across the nation—including Ketchum—have expressed concern about possible negative health effects of the radio-frequency energy transmitted by 5G facilities.

Currently, there are no 5G facilities in Ketchum, city staff said.

Johnson said some entities are challenging cell-phone companies over 5G but that doing so in court would be very expensive.

Mayor Neil Bradshaw said the city can explore adding conduits for alternative fiber-optics technology in the city.

Councilman Jim Slanetz said he would like the city to have a “restrictive” ordinance that would “protect our unique situation here,” without going as far as being on the forefront of a legal challenge.

City leaders agreed to monitor the situation. No official action was taken.

“It’s out there and we can’t ignore it,” Councilman Michael David said.

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