Radiation sickness

What is it about the words 'community board' and 'radiation levels' that make me want to reach for the nearest hunk of weapon-strength plutonium? Repeat after me: radiation is not necessarily a bad thing.

I've learned a lot in the past six weeks. I've learned how to brush my teeth with my left hand while singing "This is the way we brush our teeth" as my daughter hangs off my right arm waggling her tooth brush vigorously in the direction of my glasses. I've learned how quickly a baby can become a toddler and that adrenaline is nature's way of telling you to get fit fast.

I've also learned that my local body authority is run by hypocritical boobs who have their heads stuck in, for want of a better and less polite term, the sand.

I live in what real estate agents like to call the Mt Eden/Three Kings/Mt Roskill border. I have a view of a large water tower on top of Big King. For those who aren't as intimate with the topography of central Auckland as I am, Big King is one of three hills that make up the Three Kings. The other two lesser Kings have been flattened and their debris used to pave roads in the region, giving Big King (or One King as I like to think of it) an unequalled view of the surrounding suburb.

Walker Wireless has recently been to visit the Mount Roskill community board seeking its support for a proposal to place a transmitter on top of Big King's water tower to offer better broadband coverage in the suburb. The company wanted to add a 1.2m tall telecommunications antenna to the already impressively large reservoir and was hoping the community board would support its proposal to the Auckland City Council, which owns the land. The board voted against the proposal because of fears about electromagnetic radiation levels.

The board was being asked to support the move -- according to its minutes -- "subject to an offcers [sic] report on the effect of aesthetics and safety/health issue", but didn't feel that it could proceed even to that point.

Barry Hastings, formerly head of Hewlett-Packard New Zealand and now with Walker Wireless, told me the company's equipment falls well within the Auckland City council's required 250mW/cm squared limit. That limit is itself only a quarter of the New Zealand standard, so we're not talking about a great deal of EMR here. Did the community board find out from Walker Wireless how much radiation would be expected? The company took along the information, but the board didn't even ask. It simply turned the proposal down flat.

What is it about the words "community board" and "radiation levels" that make me want to reach for the nearest hunk of weapon-strength plutonium? Repeat after me: radiation is not necessarily a bad thing. Without it, life on earth would be a tad chilly and your cellphone reception would be less than optimal.

The irony is that the same community groups constantly go on about traffic congestion, pollution and dog poo. While I'm not saying broadband will provide an adequate solution to carrying a small plastic bag on your leash, being able to offer workers the chance to stay at home and telecommute is high on the council list of Things To Do. How can they expect us to take them seriously when they don't offer a consistent message?

Local councils have a huge role to play in the broadband debate and yet they are rarely able to back up their public statements with actions. TelstraClear wants to run fibre optics along power lines but has been knocked back by the same councils that want to get users off the roads. Now we have a community group that can't even look at the information before making a decision. Did I mention Walker Wireless' solution to the problem? It's going to put its gear on private property and bathe the area in radiation from two or three other cellsites instead of just the one. Good one Mt Roskill -- that sure showed them.

Southland, meanwhile, has more broadband capacity and competition than just about any other part of the country. I wonder how long it'll be before I have a choice in my own central Auckland suburb?

Brislen is IDGNet’s reporter. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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