More say for public on cell antennas

The cabinet on Sunday adopted guidelines that give the public greater say in the placement of cellular antennas, compensate homeowners for invasive antennas, and encourage phone companies to build smaller ones. The guidelines, which were recommended by a committee headed by Miki Haran, establish four tracks for setting up antennas. The first three, for tall antennas, require the approval of the local authorities and allow the public to enter objections to the locations selected for the transmitters. The last one, for small antennas, allows cellular phone companies to circumvent this process. Also under the new plan, cellular phone companies would be liable for compensating residents whose property values decrease because of proximity to antennas if, for example, the view from their homes becomes less attractive because of cellular towers. Residents will not, however, be able to claim compensation on health grounds. The committee pointed to Modi'in, which has placed antennas on the top of government structures, as the best example of how to erect antennas. Along with the regulations, the committee also presented information about cellular phones and antennas to demonstrate that the radiation risks from antennas can be exaggerated. According to the data, a minute speaking on a cellular phone away from an antenna provides the equivalent radiation exposure as a week spent within 30 meters of an antenna. Currently, Israel hosts around 3,600 large antennas and around 1,300 small ones. In addition, there are 7 million mobile phones in Israel, which is among the world leaders in the length and number of phone calls per person. Many sectors of Israeli society have long been pushing for regulation of the placement of antennas throughout the country, while cellular phone companies have been resistant to legislation that would increase monetary compensation of homeowners and lengthen the process of erecting antennas. Additionally, they have argued it would hinder the development of nationwide phone service. The government on Sunday also approved an NIS 19 billion, five-year plan for developing the country's road system. The money will go to upgrading municipal roads, extending the Trans-Israel Highway, known as Route 6, and safety measures which will attempt to cut down on the number of fatalities on the road.