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Wireless Networking Hardware Science

City-Provided Wi-Fi Rejected Over "Health Concerns" 360

Posted by kdawson
from the just-put-on-the-tinfoil-hat-and-it-will-be-all-better dept.
exphose writes "A small, hippie-friendly town in northern California, Sebastopol, had made an agreement with Sonic.net to provide free Wi-Fi across the downtown area. However, not everyone in town was pleased with the arrangement. According to Sebastopol Mayor Craig Litwin, citizens had voiced concerns that 'create enough suspicion that there may be a health hazard' and so they canceled their contract with Sonic.net. Some more details are at the blog of Sonic.net's CEO."
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City-Provided Wi-Fi Rejected Over "Health Concerns"

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  • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:10AM (#22867888)
    Its the only way to be sure.
  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:12AM (#22867902) Journal
    It's time to lay off the weed, me thinks. WiFi signals are as harmless as any other radio signal. I suppose they may try to get FM and AM radio blocked, as well? I am curious, though, if these same people just happen to be carrying cell phones.
    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:16AM (#22867924) Homepage

      In his science fiction novel Firestar [amazon.com] , Michael Flynn points to the hysteria over electric blankets as proof that a large portion of society is too dumb to appreciate technological advance.

      And fifteen years ago there were already fears that power lines were making us ill. If they caused long term effects, surely some would have manifested themselves in the meantime, but it all just looks like fear over nothing.

      Active hams spend a great deal of their life around RF. Has there even been any suggestions that they develop certain illnesses more than the average population?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually, it's more than just whether a signal is AC/RF. It also depends on the power level and the frequency.

        There continue to be links between cell phone use and brain tumors and, though I haven't heard anything recently about power lines, I would not buy a house near high voltage lines.

        On the other hand, I think the wireless signals are at a level that they shouldn't be much, if any, issue. I don't hold my computer next to my head and the base station power level just isn't that high - nor is it mo
        • by T-Bone-T (1048702) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:43AM (#22868098)
          You say that there are links between cellphone use and brain tumors but it seems that for every study claiming that, there is a study claiming there is no link.
          • by hal9000(jr) (316943) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:49AM (#22868138)
            You say that there are links between cellphone use and brain tumors but it seems that for every study claiming that, there is a study claiming there is no link.

            Who funded or underwrote the studies? I don't know.
            • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:08AM (#22868266)
              There have been som studies funded by the UK Department of Health which showed no convincing results from cellphones. Now, they migh, of course, be in the pocket of the cellphome manufacturers, like they might be in the pocket of the drug manufacturers. But with a socialised health service, they are the people who are going to end up payiong the first level, purely medical, costs of any ill effects that there may be. Whcih suggests to me that, if they were going to err, they would be likely to err in the direction of overcaution rather than recklessness.

              All the accusations against cellphones have been generally anecdotal i.e. a number of people have been found who were both heavy cellphone users and got brain tumours. But when large scale statistical studues are done, these "clusters" disappear. If you ask averybody with a tumour whether they were a heavy cellphone user, some will say yes. Probably more than really are, becasue moderate users will tend to judge themselves heavier in order to have something to blame for their tragedy - randomness seems much more frightening that a technological accident.
            • by hardburn (141468)

              If the procedure is correct, the data is correct, and the logic is correct, then the conclusions will also be correct. It doesn't matter who paid for it.

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by egomaniac (105476)
                While this is true, it's much easier to be sure that the data isn't falsified and the logic is sound if it was paid for by a disinterested entity.
        • by confused one (671304) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:52AM (#22868148)
          Turns out that any connection between power lines and increased cancer rates was always a false positive. In all cases, it was mitigated by some other cause, such as the community was getting it's water from an aquifer downstream from an old chemical dump. The initial research which made the connection, was falsified, and the scientist, well, he's not doing research any more.
        • by jridley (9305) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:11AM (#22868290)
          I bought and live in a house near high voltage lines. Remember the distance-squared law? If you're worried about high voltage power lines 400 feet from a house, you should be very concerned about the 110v 2 feet away in the wall, and absolutely terrified by an electric blanket a fraction of an inch away!
          • by polar red (215081)
            I dunno, there are stories that when you hold up a tube lamp under a high-voltage-line, it will light up, anyone know anything 'bout that ?
            • by gomiam (587421)
              It would seem so. [gizmodo.com]
            • by Hatta (162192)
              Are you a tube lamp? No? Then don't worry about it.
              • by gomiam (587421)
                Do you disturb the electromagnetic fields you walk through? Then you might have to worry about it. Then again, studies concluding that you don't really need to worry are quite more common than those concluding that there is a real risk: even if it isn't a discriminating factor, it might be pointing in the right direction.
              • by polar red (215081) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:09AM (#22869460)
                "don't worry, asbestos is perfectly safe"
                • by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:53AM (#22870824) Journal
                  Ironically, asbestos is quite safe, as long as you leave it in the wall where it belongs. About the worst thing you can do is remove it from an existing installation where the building is not scheduled to be demolished (since you spread its dust around by removing it).

                  Living and working in buildings with asbestos isn't a big deal. You don't really get any increase in lung cancer risk, but you get the benefit if a much lower death from fire risk. working with asbestos was always the problem. So the solution? Marathon of extra work with asbestos for all the people removing it in a panic. Brilliant.
            • by russotto (537200)
              Yes, a tube lamp will light up under a high voltage line. But, if you walk across a carpet holding a tube lamp, it will light up (intermittently). Ban carpets!
              • by mikael (484)
                But, if you walk across a carpet holding a tube lamp, it will light up (intermittently). Ban carpets!

                Cool! A new way to charge up battery powered devices like cellphones and laptops.
        • by mdmkolbe (944892)

          There continue to be links between cell phone use and brain tumors and, though I haven't heard anything recently about power lines, I would not buy a house near high voltage lines.

          Inverse square law. You get orders of magnitude less EM radiation from the 12KV power lines in your backyard, than the 120V wires running through your house.

          Though I would like to disagree with the GP, your comment is a good example of what the GP was talking about.

      • by Vellmont (569020)

        In his science fiction novel Firestar , Michael Flynn points to the hysteria over electric blankets as proof that a large portion of society is too dumb to appreciate technological advance.

        It's not really a question of smarts, but more to do with a general distrust of the government and science. Government lies and deceives all the time, as we've seen in the last 7 1/4 years. Science is poorly presented by the mass media where "study X says A causes cancer." then the next year "Study Y says A doesn't cau
    • by Wellington Grey (942717) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:58AM (#22868186) Homepage Journal
      WiFi signals are as harmless as any other radio signal

      It's not the WiFi you should worry about, but the routers [wellingtongrey.net]...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bhima (46039) *
      Every weekend scores of millions of people put on special clothes congregate in special buildings and perform goofy rituals in order to secure approval in an non existent being. I think we can let some little hippy community slide on the not wanting the Wi-Fi thing, regardless of how stupid it may be.

      Now if they start trying to pass national referendums banning Wi-Fi on Sundays or some shit like that...
  • If they're so worried, they should probably get rid of cell phone towers, and petition radio and television broadcasters to turn off their transmitters, too?
    • While I am also pretty much unconcerned by RF and think that there's a streak of instinctive ludditism at work here, I don't think hypocrisy is a fair accusation. I know Sebastapol pretty well. It's not just a liberal town: it's partially an outright hippie town, and a lot of the people involved in this story probably don't have mobile phones, televisions and microwave ovens.
  • well, fortunately (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nguy (1207026) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:15AM (#22867918)
    Fortunately, non-free WiFi and non-open WiFi doesn't have the same kinds of health hazards.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CRCulver (715279)
      However, running aircrack-ng may result in your neighbour coming over to beat the crap out of you.
  • from the blog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:15AM (#22867920)

    When it's at it's highest power level, you hold it next to your head to conduct a conversation. Ever notice that your skin gets warm after a long call? That's the only side effect of RF energy - warming.
    Uh I thought it was because it's a computer that has no way to shed heat other than to bleed it out into the air / someone's face.
    • Re:from the blog (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gordonjcp (186804) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:30AM (#22868020) Homepage
      Yes. There is absolutely *no way* that a mobile phone can cause appreciable RF heating. A microwave oven heats water, because it's an incredibly powerful microwave source at a very specific frequency focused into a resonant metal box. A mobile phone typically produces 1/1000th as much power, and spreads it as evenly as possible around the antenna.

      • A mobile phone typically produces 1/1000th as much power, and spreads it as evenly as possible around the antenna.

        That would be a theoretical 0db antenna. In the real world, antennas have gain which focuses the rf output. Most cell antennas have gain of about 1db which isn't much.
    • by Minwee (522556)

      Uh I thought it was because it's a computer that has no way to shed heat other than to bleed it out into the air / someone's face.

      It doesn't "bleed" heat, it "radiates" it.

      As in "Radiation". Your cell phone, like all electric devices, is radiating trillions and trillions of electron volts of radiation directly into your body every time you use it.

      Even if you don't use a cell phone you are still exposed to thousands if different sources of radiation every day. Wrapping yourself in tin-foil won't help -

  • When I'm downloading naked pictures of Bea Arthur
    • by Ngarrang (1023425)

      When I'm downloading naked pictures of Bea Arthur
      Actually, according to this (http://people.csail.mit.edu/rahimi/helmet/) study by some bored MIT students, the tin foil hat would HELP you to receive said pictures more effectively, possibly.
  • More information. (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:16AM (#22867930)
    Great article on debunking the spurious claims of health risks from Wi-Fi can be found here [tobyinkster.co.uk].
  • by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:17AM (#22867934)
    So, something with far less power than a cell phone system and you've bought the hype.

    Quick, lets go sell them some electromagnetic wave blocking paint, we could make a fortune.
  • Makes you wonder,,, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:17AM (#22867942) Homepage
    How many of these concerned citizens happen to smoke, I wonder...
  • When I hear someone saying they can feel or be adversely affected by radio waves I want to yell 'quack' but I suppose that's not the right term for it. Just plain batty? I'd love to see her get some "professional evaluation" to quantify her state of mind. I suppose what you call it depends on whether you think they're just putting on a show, or honestly believe it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by asuffield (111848)

      When I hear someone saying they can feel or be adversely affected by radio waves I want to yell 'quack' but I suppose that's not the right term for it. Just plain batty?


      My bet is on "paid by a telecom". They hate the idea of there being more than one supplier for any given house.
    • by Cheesey (70139) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:38AM (#22868564)
      She should call James Randi, since she apparently has the paranormal ability to detect radio waves. For $1m, she could buy herself a nice big Faraday cage.
    • by NIckGorton (974753) * on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:49AM (#22869974)
      People who complain of RF sensitivity are in the same category as people who complain of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. They really do suffer from a disease that causes real symptoms. However the disease they have is a form of panic attack - which can in the case of MCS especially progress to something akin to agoraphobia. When you test people who are labeled as having MCS in a blinded fashion to things they are sensitive to, they don't get triggered any more often than placebo. (Expose them to placebo puffs of air and expose them to the chemical they are sensitive to but don't tell them which is which, and they can label them correctly no more better than would be expected from chance.)

      However, the problem is that people with these really are tortured - they are truly convinced of this sensitivity and sometimes end up housebound and with ruined lives because of profound avoidance of perceived triggers.

      The question is though, how do you address this in a patient and from a societal perspective. Say I have a person with RFS or MCS as a patient. If you say: 'Look, hon. You are a total whackadoodle. You need to just get over it and stop having panic attacks, K?' that may fix the problem in that they will not haunt your practice, but they will go to another provider who will further validate their phobias and be worse off. If however, you can engage the person in care, even perhaps give them medicines in what may be a placebo effect (and maybe in a manner that helps the basic panic attack), and help them gradually get over the symptoms and regain their life, you are doing a better thing. But that requires controlled validation of their experience, and it ain't something you are doing in a few months. This is a long haul thing... and its a lot of energy. I limit myself to only a few people who require this at any given time in my practice.

      From a societal perspective, its the same issue: if a person with RFS or MCS says 'I can't access X public venue without Y accommodation' what do you do? Even knowing that its a form of panic disorder, that doesn't obviate the need for accommodations. We let people with mental health problems have a lot of accommodations not aimed at 'toughening them up' but aimed at making them able to fully participate in society. And like all accommodations, we have to balance the reasonableness of the request against the rest of societies needs. Expecting a wheelchair ramp on public buildings is very reasonable. Expecting that all buildings have lights turned off at 6pm is not. If a person with MCS needs a 'scent free space' in order to be able to go to college, that's reasonable... until a person with psoriasis is told she can't use her medications that control her disease. They can reasonably expect me to limit cologne use, but not things that are required to treat a serious health problem.

      In this case, I actually think the reasonableness of the request doesn't balance out. Though there are other ways that it could be addressed. Talk to local businesses who already offer wifi, request that they take down their wifi if the city guarantees free and consistent access for their customers.
      • However, the problem is that people with these really are tortured - they are truly convinced of this sensitivity and sometimes end up housebound and with ruined lives because of profound avoidance of perceived triggers.

        On the other hand, especially in the US we do have a severe prevalence of toxic chemicals floating around. Oh sure, some nations have even more than we do. But think about this; all that english-labeled stuff that the EU outlawed is currently being dumped in the US.

        I regularly go out and end up being straight up choked by some chick's toxic, artificial perfume. It's gotten to be where I almost won't go out to eat any more because I can't finish a meal without some bitch stinking me out of my seat. Repeated exposure to some of these chemicals CAN desensitize you.

        In short, I believe that people just convince their body to suppress the natural reactions over time, and while I agree that some people with MCS are just batshit, I think some of them really ARE sensitive to the chemicals.

        In addition I think you are just completely full of shit because people with MCS are only sensitive to things which they can detect (one way or another.) That is a necessary component to the theory that they are just wingnuts! But you claim that they cannot tell the difference between a puff of air and a puff of the compound, which they necessary must be able to smell. Either you are not explaining yourself very well, the study you cite is flawed beyond belief, or you are full of shit. Perhaps you are leaving something critical out; perhaps the study does not operate from the realization that larger quantities of a compound sometimes need to be ingested per unit of time to cause a reaction; perhaps you are just making things up. I doubt the last one. I wonder which of the first two is the case.

        All I know for sure is that one person is often sensitive to something which another cannot detect. A more common example than MCS (or perhaps one that is simply better-represented, since a person who truly had MCS would be far less likely to survive infancy - perhaps MCS is the primary cause of crib death, how would you know?) is that I can hear the high-pitched whine of even the newest flyback transformers from across a noisy room. If someone leaves a TV on without sync (rare these days since most televisions will generate a blue screen or a screen saver if there is no signal) I can detect it as soon as I walk into the room and the walls are no longer absorbing vibrations before they reach me. A number of slashdotters have chimed in and said the same thing over time. It's not that I have a smaller eardrum and am thus more sensitive to high frequencies, because I am gigantic and have a huge head (and hearing tests bear this out - I have never been particularly good or bad at hearing high frequencies.) Something else is happening... but people usually don't believe I can "feel" this effect. Does that mean I'm lying?

        All I am suggesting is that one should be a bit more open about the possibilities that people's health problems are other than psychosomatic. It's only recently that we even discovered that there is a quantum effect responsible for the sense of smell (and, it seems, for vision as well.) Given how little we know about the functioning of the human body (especially the brain) is it really reasonable to just dismiss the subject entirely?

  • Well hey, lets just get rid of microwave ovens, radio stations, television signals and police radios.

    In fact this technology seems so dangerous I think we should just go back to living in caves.
    • by Swampash (1131503) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:24AM (#22867988)
      Well hey, lets just get rid of microwave ovens, radio stations, television signals and police radios.

      You're thinking too small.

      Hint: massive thermonuclear reaction taking place above our heads every day, subjecting the Earth and everything on it to almost inconceivably powerful doses of electromagnetic energy.
      • by Kamineko (851857) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:47AM (#22868122)

        Hint: massive thermonuclear reaction taking place above our heads every day, subjecting the Earth and everything on it to almost inconceivably powerful doses of electromagnetic energy.
        You reckless supervillain bastard! Do you think you could create something like that and get away with it? HMM?
      • Kinda irrelevant (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:38AM (#22868560) Journal
        Disclaimer: I'm not among the "electrosensitive" crowd, and I couldn't care less about routers and cell-phones.

        That said, I find the "but there's a big nuke overhead!!!" argument just as bunk.

        The fact is: you don't get all the frequencies from that ball of light. There's this thick atmosphere, including such layers as the ozone layer and the ionosphere. Plus such things as the water in the atmosphere which are just as good there at absorbing a certain band of microwaves, as, well, when you heat water in your microwave. These things absorb almost anything to the left of infrared or to the right of UV-B.

        Let's just say there's a reason why they worry about shielding the craft in which they'll send a man to mars. Or why the gamma ray telescopes are put in orbit, and not at ground level. Or why over-the-horizon radar can actually see beyond the horizon, by bouncing the signal on the ionosphere. It's just as almost-opaque to those signals from the other side, you know.

        So, yes, you have a big nuke over your head, but you also have some hundreds of kilometres of damn good shielding between you and it. Most frequencies outside the visible spectrum, or nearby, you're _not_ getting the full radiation of that nuke. You're getting them in homeopathic doses, if at all.

        Even briefer: It doesn't prove what you think it proves. Sorry. It's as irrelevant as saying that heat can't kill because you have billions of tons of molten lava under your feet and it hasn't killey you yet.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Thrakamazog (794533)
        We hates it!
      • Evolution? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PMBjornerud (947233)

        Hint: massive thermonuclear reaction taking place above our heads every day, subjecting the Earth and everything on it to almost inconceivably powerful doses of electromagnetic energy.

        Heat stroke? Skin cancer? Those "inconceivably powerful doses of electromagnetic energy" actually kill people.

        I like WiFi as much as anyone else. But making comparisons with stuff capable of killing might not convince a suspicious mind.

        The reason the sun don't kill us outright is because we're evolved to handle it. (Mind you, oxygen is a crazy reactive element and a different life form might consider breathing it as much fun as swimming in hydrocloric acid.)

        If people worry about man-made sources of electro

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Well, the hippies want us all to live in caves. Hunting wouldn't be allowed as it's not animal friendly. You can squat bare-assed in the dirt, but wiping your ass afterwards would only be allowed if the leaves you use were already dead. No fire either because that isn't friendly to our woodland friends because we would be destroying a vital piece of their habitat... a few sticks. In a way, that means we would go back to a pre-caveman society.

      Dirty... Worthless... Hippies!
    • Caves are a poor choice. Radiation levels in a cave are higher (naturally occuring background from the rock itself). Have to live in grass huts and never go out in the mid-day sun to minimize exposure to UV.
  • "Health" Concerns? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blcamp (211756) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:22AM (#22867976) Homepage

    Could it be that someone there is worried about their own FINANCIAL "health" instead?

    Does someone there have a vested intere$t in making sure this deal fell through?

    As with anything else... follow the money.

    • by King_TJ (85913)
      My thoughts too. These "free city-wide wi-fi" roll-outs haven't exactly been smashing successes in too many places. I rarely read about a successful deployment, but by contrast, I regularly read a story about a project getting stalled due to financial issues.

      Typically, there is some misunderstanding/disagreement where the city supposedly promised to fund X% of the deployment, while the city claims those costs were supposed to be shouldered by the ISP/provider - and then the whole thing stalls out or gets
  • by gsslay (807818) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:22AM (#22867978)
    What about that Electrickery, man? No one knows how it really works, and it, like, leaks out of the cables if you don't plug something in at the socket. And then you have pools of it lying about your floor, except you can't see it. And everyone knows things you can't see are evil, man.

    Turn that shit off back at the town limits. It's the only way to be safe.

    Now where's my tinfoil bandana?
  • Well, since it seems to be the tinfoil crazy hat people that want to kill these sorts of projects, why don't we pass a law.

    Lets force everyone who obsesses about this sort of health issue to insulate their homes with a layer of tinfoil - it would really be in their best interests (according to their beliefs)...

    I wonder if these people use paypass cards (RFID in credit cards, etc) ... maybe someone should tell them to stay away from those readers too.
    • Unfortunately, many of those people would not have the common sense to ground the tinfoil so it would act like a Faraday Cage. Instead, it would act as a giant antenna and they would be hearing the Top 40 in their fillings.
  • Self damning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:29AM (#22868006) Homepage Journal
    I find it ironic that the CEO makes a grossly inaccurate statement that actually hurts his cause:

    Compare this to the mobile phone that you keep in your pocket, which is typically three to ten times this power level. When it's at it's highest power level, you hold it next to your head to conduct a conversation. Ever notice that your skin gets warm after a long call? That's the only side effect of RF energy - warming.

    The warmth of a cell phone has nothing to do with RF. It is waste heat generated directly by the transmitter - it is not the result of RF energy being absorbed by the skin and converted to heat. Even low-frequency transmitters get very hot when transmitting. VHF and UHF mobile rigs, like those used by emergency services and amateur radio operators, have huge (relative to the size of the radio) heatsinks on the back to dissipate the heat so the final stage electronics are not fried. My amateur handheld (Yaesu VX-7R quad band) can transmit at 5 watts, and the magnesium case literally gets so hot at that output power that it is difficult to hold. That is transmitting at frequencies vastly lower than cell-phones (144-148 MHz) which pass right through skin. It's not the antenna that gets hot, or my head, it is the case housing the transmitter.

    Also, batteries get warm when generating high amperage, especially really compact batteries like lithium-ion. So that also contributes to the warmth of a transmitting cell phone.
  • Maybe they were thinking about http://www.sonicdrivein.com/ [sonicdrivein.com]?

    But in their defense, I understand the hamburger wrappers make great tinfoil hats.

  • Let's hear it for signal to noise drowning them out. Not that they'd get the analogy, what with never using any RF devices.
  • by publicopinion5 (1262126) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:42AM (#22868094)
    Is there any way Sonic.net could sue these guys for backing out of an agreement for made-up reasons? This seems like someone not paying their bills because a unicorn told them to.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      Yes they could sue. But would they win? Probably not.
      They would just demand that Sonic.net prove that WiFi was totally safe. Which it can not. They can show that there is a lack of proof that it is dangerous but they can not prove that it was safe. Even then sonic.net would face law suit when Moonduck Smith has an aura misalignment caused by the wifi.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)
      >Is there any way Sonic.net could sue these guys for backing out of an agreement for made-up reasons?

      No, because in every industry except entertainment its suicide to ever sue your own customers. Who would want to do business with anyone like that? There are a lot of lawyers who never receive payment for their services who also never sue their customers. Once the word gets out that youre doing that then its time to close shop.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by moosesocks (264553)

        No, because in every industry except entertainment its suicide to ever sue your own customers. Who would want to do business with anyone like that? There are a lot of lawyers who never receive payment for their services who also never sue their customers. Once the word gets out that youre doing that then its time to close shop.

        Violation of a written contract and non-payment are perhaps two of the only legitimate reasons to sue your customers. Although I'd agree that there are certainly cases where it's better to let that sort of thing slide, Sonic.net have a reasonably solid case here that shouldn't scare off future customers/investors. Also, if they're not paying, they're not customers!

        There are many, many, many abuses of the American legal system. This is not one of them.

        Also, to respond to one of the other posters, I'd

  • I wonder if this town will next try and ban Dihydrogen Monoxide [dhmo.org] like the good folks at Aliso Viejo [msn.com] almost did.
  • Can you imagine what will happen if there if free wifi downtown. As son as the PHB and the like hit the downtown area, they will boot up their computers and begin to work! Not only will they eating, preening themselves, talking on the phone, but now they will be emailing, surfing the web, and who knows what else. The fact that they are supposed to driving a car, already oblivious to most of them, will seem an even less important distraction. The Chaos of downtown will escalate!

    Seriously though, new te

  • No big surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:57AM (#22868184)
    EM radiation of various forms has been a boogieman for a long time, and I'm sure it won't change. Hell we saw this at work. The campus is rolling out a new WiFi system with complete coverage. When I say that, I mean it. They are making sure you get a signal everywhere. This necessitates a truly amazing number of access points. There's somewhere in the range of 50-100 in our 5 story building. The placement of these is dictated by where they do the best for signal coverage, not by convenience (like hallways or electrical closets and so on). This means some are in offices.

    Well, people bitched, and thus the APs has to be moved in the offices. They didn't like having them directly overhead, so they'd get moved to the side and such.

    Now, you want the really silly part? I work for the electrical and computer engineering department. Yes, that's right, people with PhDs in engineering, who have all taken classes on this kind of stuff, are afraid of the radiation boogieman.

    If people with extensive educations in related fields are going to bitch and ignore the facts, you can damn well believe that regular people with no understanding will do so.

    I think maybe I should just get in to the market of selling whole-house faraday cages.
    • by mdmkolbe (944892)

      Now, you want the really silly part? I work for the electrical and computer engineering department. Yes, that's right, people with PhDs in engineering, who have all taken classes on this kind of stuff, are afraid of the radiation boogieman.

      I think there was a study about Harvard graduates and asking them the reason it is hotter in the summer. They almost all said it was because we are closer to the sun in the summer. (*) This aspect of human behavior astonishes me, but it seems quite common. What I want to know is how do we fix it? More education obviously doesn't work. But this problem of human behavior makes us waste time on non-issues.

      (*) I can't find this with a quick Google so I hope I'm not perpetuating an urban myth.

  • I love/hate this quote from here [oreilly.com], article linked from the site:

    I have had health challenges, and my body cannot handle wifi...it gives me headaches and makes me very sick. I would be unable to go to the store, shop. I have enough problems being limited in my travels, it is outrageous that a place so environmentally conscious would create this in our/my hometown. In Europe they are much more advanced than us, and there wifi is not allowed in cities in the European commonwealth.

    These are the kind of people that tick me off to no end when trying to deal with city affairs: the ignorant liars.

    • by Zelos (1050172)
      Where is this "European Commonwealth"? Sounds more interesting than the boring old European Union I live in, with our city-wide [theregister.co.uk] WiFi mesh networks.
  • The author, after asserting that only psychosomatic symptoms are evident, goes on to say: "Ever notice that your skin gets warm after a long call? That's the only side effect of RF energy - warming."
    This statement is utterly idiotic.
    The warming of your skin is from the phone itself generating its own heat from the circuitry and the discharging battery, NOT the so-called microwaving of the skin as this clueless author puts it.

    You can't fight junk science with junk science!

  • From the article:

    "Service is available in parts of Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Airport Express buses to SFO, plus scattered locations around the bay area."

    I wonder what brand of wireless router they use to provide service on the Airport Express buses? Because for some reason, a particular model [apple.com] comes to mind.

  • Sounds like a great place to open a hat store - of the tin foil variety.
  • by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:05AM (#22868822)
    The Truth About Wireless Devices [wellingtongrey.net]

    As told by Wellington Grey.
  • California (Score:3, Funny)

    by BenjiTheGreat98 (707903) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:07AM (#22868836)
    This reminds me of a canister of chemicals I saw at one point:

    "May cause cancer in California"
  • This article reminds me of one from 2003 here in Illinois. There was a school district that got sued by a group of parents in Oak Park over the school installing WiFi, claiming a large body of evidence linking exposure to WiFi microwaves and human health.
    Link: http://wifinetnews.com/archives/002496.html [wifinetnews.com]

  • Thank you, Sebastopol and her lunatic fringe, for proving that the Right doesn't have a monopoly on idiocy!

    Don't forget to make a new tinfoil hat every day, because the cosmic background radiation may be a health hazard, too!
  • sad to say... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sfing_ter (99478) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:25AM (#22868994) Homepage Journal
    That even here in California, we have illiterate fearful ignorant people that want to sit in a bunker an wait to nuke the commies. TKFTs alive and well in the state of California. I wonder if they called to complain on their cell phones, or perhaps from a wireless phone in their house? Perhaps when they get in an accident they use their On-Star to call for help... hmmm... No, i'm sure they just sit there in their caves wondering if they should bathe this week.
  • by acvh (120205) <geek.mscigars@com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:27AM (#22869010) Homepage
    OK, it's easy to mock the old hippies for being afraid of radio waves. But in a nation that has been told that asbestos, thalidomide, red dye #2, aspartame and Vioxx are harmless I don't begrudge them their suspicion.

    Rather than engage in derisive laughter, why not send them some helpful and relevant information that might assuage their concerns? If half the posters here wrote them a letter with a significant reference or two they might actually learn something. Remember, "Knowing is half the battle."
    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:27AM (#22870528) Homepage Journal

      But in a nation that has been told that asbestos,

      The one saving grace of asbestos is that if you leave it alone, it'll leave you alone. The real problems kick in when you start prying it loose and moving it around.

      thalidomide,

      Hugely useful [mayoclinic.com] but only when used within strict guidelines. As it turns out, one of its potential uses turned out to be a pretty bad idea so we don't use it that way anymore.

      red dye #2,

      I'll give you that one.

      aspartame

      The FDA insists that it is [fda.gov]. Sure, it's possible that they're a wholly owned subsidiary of Searle or whoever else makes the stuff these days, but I still trust the FDA at least as much as the groups opposing it.

      and Vioxx

      My wife's a doctor. She has patients who beg her to find old expired samples or any other source of the stuff she might know of. Those patients know that it possibly cause them harm, but it's so effective that they're willing to take that risk. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, would you rather have 50 years of crippling agony before you or 25 years of painfree enjoyment? Regardless of your answer, a lot of people wish they could pick the latter but that's no longer available to them.

      are harmless I don't begrudge them their suspicion.

      I begrudge them acting to make it impossible for me to use whatever it is they're afraid of this week.

  • by wtansill (576643) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:55AM (#22869286)
    Wi-fi interferes with the crystals and prevents one from being able to channel the spirits. That's the real issue that no one wants to talk about.
  • by hedronist (233240) * on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:29AM (#22869728)
    Having lived in Sebastopol for 15 years, and in Silicon Valley for 20 years before that, I feel compelled to make a few observations about the context of this decision by the city council (with which I disagree).

    1. "Hippie friendly" does little to convey the truly eclectic mix of people who live here. You name it, we got it: 5th generation farming families, refugees from Berkeley and the Valley, 200 acre commercial winemaking operations next door to the 2 acre "wine estates" of retired attorneys, a surprising number of geezer geeks (including me), a large gay/lesbian community, and, yes, a certain number of people wearing tie-dyed clothing and reeking of patchouli oil. About the only group in short supply here is neo-cons. (Thank .)

    2. Speaking of geeks, some of you may have heard of a project call nocat.net. It uses off-the-shelf WiFi hardware to deliver broadband to places miles (and hills) away from the nearest cable/DSL connection. It was started by a group of people in ... (wait for it) ... Sebastopol. It was founded by people from, and had its meetings at, O'Reilly.

    3. This area has higher-than-average levels of education and of political activism. I think these are good things. However, having a college degree and being willing to make yourself heard does not necessarily translate into knowing what the hell you are talking about. This is a universal truth.

    4. People in general do not understand the technologies they use, and Sebastopol is no exception. I would bet good money that at least some of the people who are so vocal (here and elsewhere) about the dangers of WiFi are actually using a laptop that has--you guessed it--WiFi. Some of them may have actually decided not to have a WiFi router in their home "because of the radiation," but it's almost a certainty that they forgot to turn off the radio in their laptop. I'm not a radio engineer, but I seem to remember something about radiated energy falling off as the inverse square of the distance. Which means that, whatever the perceived dangers from the router, they are actually much more exposed to radiation from their own laptop. (Not to mention that little radio transmitter they nestle against their brain, AKA their cellphone.)

    What does all of that mean? Hell, I don't know. I guess I was irked by the simplistic labeling from the original story.

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