COSMOS Innovation Zone in West Harlem

COSMOS, the beyond-5G Innovation Zone, has been expanded to include much of West Harlem, bounded by Columbia University’s Morningside and Manhattanville campuses, with CUNY to the north, and the Apollo Theater to the east. This experimental outdoor wireless laboratory is celebrated as a way to advance driverless cars, “smart cities” and other Internet-of-Everything technologies in the most challenging of densely populated, real-world environments. Meanwhile, the local residents, employees and students who make up that dense environment are living amidst heightened power levels and frequencies of wireless radiation, what the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified a Group 2B possible carcinogen a decade ago. Since then studies, such as from the National Toxicology Program, and the Ramazzini Institute, have only corroborated the evidence that the classification did not go far enough, and we continue to build our world around this hazardous technology.

It is unlikely any of the residents were given proper notification, but because the project is partially funded by taxpayers, through the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR), a $100 million public private partnership between the National Science Foundation and a consortium of major industry players, the public can view some of the experiments on the COSMOS website. Anyone in the research community, from high school science classes to industry planners, can submit a project to be tested out on its platform remotely.

The aim is to provide an outdoor “sand box,” a “sweet spot” for experimenters, with “ultra-high access bandwidth coupled with low latency mobile networks and edge cloud services.” Ultra high access bandwidth in this case means millimeter waves up to 40 GHz at yet increased power levels according to the FCC’s expanded experimental license rules. These frequencies will be transmitted from a system of 9 large rooftop antenna installations, 40 medium “small cell” nodes on the sides of buildings, or on street light poles or other transit furniture, and 200 small nodes that can be carried by users or by vehicles. Cameras and other sensors collect and transmit data while cloud-connected computing is conducted on local processors, as researchers aim for the low latency needed for time-sensitive applications.

Three of the large antenna installations, and quite a few of the medium size nodes, are on public housing. Several medium nodes are on public schools, while the rest are scattered through the Columbia University and CUNY campuses, and the New York City streets.

Screenshot from Slide Presentation by COSMOS engineer Tinguin Chen,

All of this is to enable and refine a new class of technologies that technicians and young engineers, elated at being given free rein, and with great opportunities to advance, believe society wants and needs. For instance, on-the-go Augmented Reality (AR) has a noble aim to help the visually impaired navigate the streets, while edge-cloud-assisted self-driving cars are supposed to help prevent accidents. But what would the widespread adoption of radar emissions for every navigational task mean for our health and the health of the planet?

A radar map to all “Intersection Participants”

The way “smart” intersections would regulate the chaotic traffic flow of a New York City intersection is by sending out radar signals to every vehicle and pedestrian as they move through the intersection, creating a radar map, and then beaming that map back to all “participants” in the intersection, in real time. Vehicles will communicate in turn to sensors in the environment and to neighboring vehicles, directly or through cloud connected processors, all emitting ultra high frequency waves.

The power levels and dead-on precision needed to do this in perpetuity seems downright daunting, as well as a crazy and perhaps pointless endeavor in the streets of New York, where emergency vehicles, drunk drivers and police cars race sporadically to various destinations. Aside from the traffic mayhem and congestion, the peskiest problem seems to be the ‘unruliness’ of New York pedestrians, who persist in not obeying the rules, as engineer Zoran Kostic laments in this presentation documenting a test corner on 120th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The engineers still have not developed the deep learning models that would be able to track the age-old New York City jaywalker in sufficient real time latency. Nor small moving objects, such as very young children, which Kostic admits is another problem that still needs work.

One can’t help being a little skeptical, and wondering, what does it mean to have all intersection participants to be broadcast this radar map? Is the eventual aim for everyone to be wearing AR visors, or to be perpetually seeing the world through our phones?

More Exposure In the Name of Traffic Safety

While this is all being done in the name of public safety, exposure to all these wireless signals could very well create the disorientation and brain fog that would cause more accidents than the system aims to prevent. Some of the most common symptoms of electrical sensitivity are headaches and difficulty concentrating. But the biological effects from wireless radiation are outlined in thousands of peer-reviewed studies, demonstrating everything from decreased melatonin, which inhibits our sleep and ability to heal, to neurological deterioration, breaching of the blood brain barrier, immune system changes, cancer, and the list goes on. It would seem augmented reality visors would put users at even more enhanced risk, as they bathe the user at such intimate range with microwave radiation. Distance has always been recommended, even with the use of regular cell phones. The advisory is buried in every cell phone’s manual.

The D.C. District Court of Appeals acknowledged the existence of this body of science on August 13, 2021, when it called the FCC’s decision not to review its outdated safety guidelines, in light of the science, “arbitrary and capricious,” and demanded that the agency return with a full explanation of why they chose to overlook compelling evidence of harm. The FCC has done nothing so far. And plans to expand and intensify the wireless infrastructure are still forging ahead all over the country. Those working in the field continue to parrot the idea that anything that does not cause a measurable heating of skin by a cell phone is fine, and that the ultra-high frequency millimeter waves which COSMOS specializes in will, according to engineers like Tom Marzetta, inventor of massive MIMO antennas, simply “bounce off the skin.” This has been shown to be a mistaken belief. [Jump to story below, “The Science on Millimeter Waves – We do have skin in the Game.”]

Shaping Our World

Our children are being brought into the fold of this hyperdigitalized way of life without being given all the biological information. Students are enchanted with the potential of the technology in local high school STEM classes that COSMOS partners with, or through community liaisons, like Silicon Harlem, whose mission is to create an inclusive digital economy. While this is crucial, unfortunately, the focus of such organizations, city officials and educators, even for the most basic internet access, has been primarily on wireless broadband, which they believe is the best way to promote digital equity.

But the wireless build out that they are prioritizing actually perpetuates inequity, as this is a subpar way to connect to the Internet. Everyone should be getting safer, faster, and more private connections through wired fiberoptic cable directly to their premises as a basic universal service. That was what had been intended years ago when the telecoms requested grants to replace the copper lines with fiberoptic. This was before the telecoms realized that wireless would offer greater opportunities for profit, due to the cheaper build out, as well as the lack of regulation, allowing them to raise prices, break contracts, and instate inequitable tiered pricing. And yet the wireless companies rely on fiber, which was built on the public dime, as their backhaul. Please see the to read the incredible history of telecom fraud and the purloined funds for fiber completion.

The people of Harlem should at the very least know what is being experimented on around them. And everyone should be aware that what is being incubated in this small and historic segment of Manhattan is likely going to be rolled out across our city (and others).

Engineers and regulators often say they might not know what the future technologies will be, but the important thing is to build the platform and be ready for them, perhaps to create a system of redundancy to ensure ubiquitous uninterrupted coverage so that these high bandwidth experiments have a better chance of working, and innovations can continue unabated. Perhaps this is why the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) thinks it is necessary to install even grander 5G LinkNYC poles on every city block.

But is this blind forging ahead into the “all wireless all the time” world really what New Yorkers want? Is ultra high bandwidth mobility really worth all the risks? Camilla Rees of Manhattan Neighbors for Safer Telecommunications has critical questions we should all be asking:

“Do we want to live with stability in our regulation system, and in our lives, or do we want to be constantly stressed by radiation that’s linked to all these different conditions… We are agreeing to being monitored, tracked, exploited, by allowing these technologies to be further deployed… We are giving up enormous things in agreeing to a wireless world.”

Camilla Rees, Manhattan Neighbors for Safer Telecommunications,

The Science on Millimeter Waves -- We do have skin in the game

In fact ultra-high bandwidth signals can propagate into living tissue in unexpected ways. The sweat ducts, due to their coiled structure, minute size, and conductive aqueous solution that is our perspiration, have been shown by Betzalel, et al. to act as helical antennas in the sub-terahertz range (between 90-300 gigahertz). This increases the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) into the body. 

There is also the matter of Brillioun Precursors which are created when extremely short electromagnetic waves enter “lossy” materials, like soil or living tissue, or when rapid shifts in power occur, as with phased array antenna beams. Phased arrays consist of multiple transmitters that “phase” through varying frequencies in order to be able to steer the beam. These have been used in military early warning detection radar systems. They are also a feature of the new 5G phones and antennas, and are being integrated into COSMOS with the IBM 28GHz phased-array antenna modules (PAAMs). Scientists working for the US Air Force, Dr. Richard Albanese and Dr. Kurt Oughston, have been warning since the 1990s that the rapid shifts in power produced by these types of antennas create a kind of reverberation, so that the signal does not attenuate, but resonates deeper into the body. While safety officials in the Air Force dismissed these effects, its Office of Scientific Research was offering numerous grants to investigate their uses in the field. 

Quoted from an interview in Microwave News in March/April of 2002, Dr. Oughston explains:

"As data transmission rates continue to increase, wireless communication systems will approach closer to and may, at some time in the not-too-distant future, exceed the conditions necessary to produce Brillouin precursors in living tissue."

“The Brillouin precursor field is totally different from the RF/MW radiation addressed in ANSI/IEEEexposure standards. In his 1994 paper, Dr. Richard Albanese, described four potential mechanisms for biological tissue damage due to a Brillouin precursor. These are changes in the conformation of molecules, changes in the rates of chemical reactions, effects on membranes and thermal damage. In my opinion, the most serious may be the membrane effects. A single Brillouin precursor can open small channels through the cell membrane because, as it passes through the membrane, it can induce a significant change in electrostatic potential across that membrane."

While most of the work of these scientists involved complicated mathematics, Soviet scientists did explore the effects of these higher frequencies in the lab, and have known for decades that they have far-reaching systemic effects. 
Science from the Soviets 

In 1977, N.P. Zalyubovskaya published Biological Effects of Millimeter Radiowaves (a translation was declassified by the CIA in 2012). This study looked at the effect on rats and mice from millimeter radio waves of 50-80 GHz, which overlaps with high speed 5G, and the ubiquitous unlicensed frequency of 60 GHz, using a power density of 1 milliwatt/cm(2), which is at the upper limit of the current US exposure guideline for the general population. She found that millimeter waves create:

- Inflammation of nerve fibers
- De-myelination, stripping nerves of their coating, which are the same symptoms of multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions
- Suppression of blood cell production from the bone marrow and lymphatic system (the very engine of our immune system)
- A suppression of energy exchange and the oxygen consumption rate of mitochondria, which led to a decrease in ATP, the energy that is needed for all our bodily functions
- A reduction in reaction time
- "A suppression of all functions of the organism" 

A 1978 study by N.P. Zalyubovskaya with R.I. Kiselev Effects of Radio Waves of a Millimeter Frequency on the Body of Man and Animals followed workers who dealt with ultra-high frequency generators for 1-10 years with emissions that fell within the range of current US “safety” guidelines. Some of the effects they found were:

- Excessive blood clotting
- A considerable increase of mouth microbes
- A decrease in the protective bactericidal action of the skin
- Various immune markers in the blood lowered by half
- A decrease in erythrocytes, the hemoglobin containing red blood cells essential for transport and exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and other tissues
- Shrinkage of internal organs
- Irritation of the lymph system
- Changes to the adrenal system, and the ability of the body to respond to disturbances

These obscure yet clearly relevant studies should put the whole world on high alert - especially now during our current era of Covid - as we are poised to deepen our commitment to the wireless way of life, and to ever higher bandwidth. It appears that the dense radiofrequency signals required for all of these technologies creates systemic problems within the body, including our most basic ability to utilize oxygen, as well as to fight off infectious disease.

Help us spread our awareness campaign:

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Write State Senator Robert Jackson, sponsor of the Right to Clean Air, Water and a Healthful Environment amendment, to point out that wireless radiation is an environmental pollutant, and to conduct proper oversight over these experiments in his district. We believe that the engineering students should be exposed to all types of perspectives, not just those from industry proponents, but industry critics as well, life-based scientists, and constitutional scholars. Let us call on the Columbia and NYU engineering departments to invite at least two scholars outside of their purview for visiting lectures each semester. Let us know how it goes.

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