Bloch That Cell Tower!

Stephen Bloch and his wife moved to Stonybrook Road in 2002. He’s a partner in a Westport venture capital firm. In an earlier career, he was a practicing physician.

The Blochs have spotty cell service at home. There’s a dead zone in the area, not far from Earthplace.

Verizon wants to enhance coverage. You’d figure the Blochs would be happy.

They are anything but.

The company plans to put a mini-cell tower on a utility pole in the couple’s front yard, 60 yards from their home. Verizon says that’s the best place for it.

The Blochs — and their neighbors — disagree.


The Blochs’ home (left), and the utility pole (right) where Verizon hopes to install a mini-cell tower.

Bloch — who, you will recall, has a medical degree — is concerned about possible biological effects of radio frequency waves emitted by the mini-tower.

And — just as disturbing — Bloch says that Verizon refuses to share any technical details about performance and safety of the devices.

“There’s no information about shielding, direction of the beam – nothing.”

“We’ve gotten no specs” from the company, he adds. “So we can’t even tell whether it’s compliant” with existing laws and regulations.

Bloch notes that current rules were written for large cell towers — not these new mini ones.

“Whenever I ask, all they say is, ‘We follow FCC regulations,'” Bloch says. “I’ve asked them to demonstrate the need for these. I’ve never gotten any answers.”

Bloch says there was “a big uproar” in Palo Alto when Verizon proposed a similar mini-tower. Ultimately, he says, the utility got what it wanted.

A typical mini-cell tower.

“They want to do this here by fiat,” says Bloch. They hide behind legal precedent, and a weak appeals process.”

The appeals process requires them to spend a day at Public Utilities Regulatory Agency headquarters in New Britain. They’re slated to meet December 15. Verizon must appear that day too.

But, Bloch says exasperatedly, “Just getting that appointment was incredibly difficult.”

He says there is only one other similar mini-cell tower in Westport: in front of Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach. That’s much further away from any homes than Verizon’s proposed Stonybrook site.

First selectman Jim Marpe and town attorney Ira Bloom have written letters supporting the Blochs, and helped propose alternative pole locations either on public land or further away from houses. But, Bloch says, “Verizon will not consider it.”

He doesn’t think Verizon will listen on December 15 either. But, he notes, “PURA has to consider public comment.”

He doesn’t expect Westporters to flock to New Britain to support him and his wife, in their battle against a large utility company.

But, he says, “we welcome public comment on ‘06880.’”


23 responses to “Bloch That Cell Tower!

  1. There is absolutely no issue with Radio Frequency radiation at the power levels that Cell sites use. There are many studies on RFI , the Swedish Gvt study is a major one and you can find it online. Radio effects are governed by the inverse square law and in a just a few feet the levels drop by thousands of to times. You get more radiation from the phone itself , or your WiFi router than from standing under a Cell tower. I’ve been an Amateur Radio operator for 50 years and this is a common topic and has been widely studied. People panic when they here the term Radiation.
    Sound waves radiate, which is why you hear. SAME WITH RADIO.
    ENJOY THE GOOD COVERAGE, or get a Cell booster in the House, I️ have one.

  2. Any evidence of health hazards? Or just more NIMBY?

  3. The American Cancer Society discusses this issue on its website:

  4. Seth and Luke, Thanks for the comments. I am well aware of the issues and understand the science. The plan is to scatter these all around Westport–we just happen to be one of the first. Verizon won’t provide any transparency — its impossible to match up any safety data since Verizon won’t share it. They shut down discussions with the town though there are open space and non residential alternatives. CT towns inc. Westport are supposed to have a say in changes to utility poles. Verizon won’t directly answer questions and is trying to steamroll this hiding behind their right of way prerogatives. Instead, we are forced to appeal to the state regulators in person to gain relevant information to assess the impact.

  5. Christine Meiers Schatz

    Steve, I’ll go to the hearing. If you could email me the details at that would be great.

  6. Robert J. Raynor

    I Worked For Verizon Wireless For Years At Cell Tower Sites. No Effect At All On My Health Little Affect Should Be More Alert On What Food You Put In Your Mouth, That Will Kill You My Friend. CANCER. The Smaller Mini Cell On Poles Is Harmless. You Will Now Have Cell Service At Your House Be Glad, Not Mad Verizon Is First At 911 Emergency Handling. If You Have Kids, might Save A Loved One. Best Bobby.

  7. Hi Steve,
    What are the health risks you are concerned about? Hope you are able to make some headway with Verizon!

    (I grew up as a Westport summer resident and have lived in Palo Alto since 1991. Was not aware of the mini-tower issue until just now.)

  8. There is naturally great concern, if not hysteria, any time the “C” word is raised, legitimately or otherwise. However, as an RF engineer, I must agree with Seth and Luke. IMO the risk of harm from “radiation” (an emotionally charged word) from a mini-cell site is comparable to the risk of sunburn from a nearby flashlight. There is no “tower” (another emotionally charged word.) There are only small new enclosed antennas on an existing phone pole. It’s a smart but expensive way for Verizon to fill in holes and help assure service will be available in the area during an emergency. With cellphones rapidly replacing landlines, this becomes increasingly important.

    OTOH, why can’t Verizon (the largest corporation in all of New York state, and I have no love for them) be more forthcoming? Perhaps experience tells them people will react to the science not rationally, but emotionally, so the less that’s revealed, the better.

  9. Robert Patterson

    There are electomagnetic Hypersensitivity concerns if your nervous in your body been damage.

  10. Hertzian conspiracy. ELF and ULF waves… ALF could answer this question for you, but only if you have the phone number.

  11. Michael Lonsdale

    I live near the proposed tower and also had no service with Verizon. I called many times to complain and received no satisfaction! Verizon does not make it well known that all you need to do to get coverage is go into your phone settings, go to Phone and turn on wi-fi calling. No need to have a cell booster as that is a thing of the past. All carriers offer wi-fi calling and it is better than cellular calling. I have since changed over to T-Mobile and not only do I have unlimited free data anywhere in the world but now have coverage in my house and neighborhood. I do not miss Verizon. In terms of the proposed mini-cell the last thing we need is more items on the already overloaded telephone poles!

  12. We live on Soundview Drive and recently went through this process with Verizon concerning an installation proposed here. Yes – right on one of the telephone poles directly on the beach. To make a long story short, Verizon was successful in getting the PURA approval despite all the adjacent property owners objecting, protesting at the hearing, writing letters, etc. The new, taller pole was recently installed. It’s between Norwalk and Westport Ave’s, on/in the beach, along with the old pole that has yet to be removed, and probably never will be. It is only a matter of time before the cell equipment is installed.

    The PURA regs (which were undoubtedly written by attorneys for the utilities) prohibit the PURA from evaluating any objections other than those that are health and safety-related (for example, concerns about property values, the availability of microcell devices as an alternative, etc. are not allowed to be considered by the PURA). If you choose to fight them, you will need to hire a team of lawyers and engineers to provide evidence that the installation is not safe. They, in turn, will provide a mountain of evidence showing that it is safe. And they will win.

    So, enjoy your improved cell service, both at home and when you are at the beach!

  13. For the people saying it is not a health hazard, that is up for debate. It is still controversial, and if there is any chance that it can harm you and/or your family, it is not something I would want to live right near. When you have lyme disease or other chronic illness, some of the top doctors tell you to even turn off wifi at night so you are not exposed to unnecessary EMFs.Maybe the people that don’t think it is an issue can ask to get it put by their homes, and others wouldn’t have to. Something to propose to Verizon.

    • It’s not up for scientific debate any more than climate science. However, it spooks some people, and that may be detrimental in and of itself. Sort of like voodoo.

  14. one of the happiest days of my life was the day i severed any further relationship with the idiots called Verizon. the very worst service anywhere.

  15. Well, this now seems as good a time as any to cancel my Verizon service. They have no precedent to put that cancer causing technology right next to their house. I support this couple and their fight against this Goliath.

  16. I have a large cell phone tower less than 100 yards from my front door I have measured high levels of him of EMF radiation throughout my house and it’s very disturbing I definitely have health problems too numerous to explain due to this fact and we seem to be a country that lacks or is behind other countries in this health issue

  17. Good lord this post is like a magnet for quackery and junk science. Turn off your WiFi to help Lyme disease? Cancer from cell signals? You do all realize we are surrounded by these radio waves all the time. And your phone in your pocket transmits those same frequencies and is right up against your head when you talk on it. And micro cells like this are literally on every block in NYC. Where millions of people live and work all day long. There is simply no evidence or science that supports any of the claims and concerns here.

    The real public health risk is from lack of cell service. We now rely on mobile devices to contact 911 and lack of coverage creates life threatening delays in treatment. Put another way, let’s say you were taking a nice walk near Earthplace and had a stroke or heart attack. Do you want to be able to call 911 right there or have to hike back to your house to reach a landline?

    We should be thrilled they now have micro cells that can do the job of giant towers in a much less disruptive form factor.

  18. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Consumers: Don’t get taken in by just another cell job.