Considering ultrafast broadband?
Be aware that some systems may have adverse health effects
With the roll-out of fibre optic cabling in many parts of NZ, a number of companies are offering new ultra-fast broadband deals.
While these may certainly be attractive if your current internet access is not reliable, there are some potential health and other disadvantages to consider prior to making a decision about this new technology. (However there are also potentially solutions, too, please read on for details.)
How ultrafast broadband works
While there may be variations, as a general rule, the basic set up to access ultrafast broadband via the new fibre optic cabling system goes like this.
- Fibre optic cables are installed in a street. (This is a programmed roll out and you have no control over when your street gets this new infrastructure.) The fibre optic cabling in your street may be installed under your footpath or it may hang from the poles that support your powerlines.
- Once there is fibre optic cabling in place in your street, you may choose to get ultrafast broadband, should you want to do this (and can afford to get it installed – and have the necessary permissions – see below).
- If you want ultrafast broadband, the first step is to engage a company to install the technology for you. Very briefly, the major installation steps are:
1) Connecting a fibre optic cable from the fibre optic cabling in the street to the home.
(The fibre optic cable between the street and the home may be above ground – as are the power lines and phone line for most older homes in NZ – or it may be underground.)
The point where the fibre optic cabling is attached to a home is called the External Termination Point (ETP). It looks like a small box affixed to an exterior wall. (NB: If any part of the property is shared (such as a shared driveway or a property for which there is a body corporate) consent from neighbours is needed prior to the installation of the fibre optic cables. People who are renting need the consent of their landlord.)
2) As part of the ultrafast broadband system an Optic Network Terminal (ONT) is installed inside the home.
This has to be placed close to an existing power point with access to household wiring. The ONT will not function during a power outage unless it contains a battery back-up. (This may not be a standard feature and it may increase the cost of the ONT.)
3) A “Residential Gateway” is installed.
The Residential Gateway can wirelessly control devices such as a smart TV and a cordless phone. Cable-based or wireless internet can also be linked to the ONT.
4) Fibre optic cabling may be installed in some of the walls of the home.
5) In some systems, the existing copper phone line and phone jacks may be disconnected/removed.
Potential drawbacks and health impacts of an ultrafast broadband system of this type include:
If the existing copper phone line and phone jacks inside your home are removed or disconnected, this could leave you without a landline phone in event of a power failure.
(NB: Don’t count on a mobile phone service being available in your area if there is a major event that causes a power blackout. In the part of Auckland where I live which lost power after the fire at a substation in 2015, the local cellular phone network transmitters also lost power, so the only people in our street who had a functional phone were people who had corded landline phones, which do not require electricity to work.)
If the existing copper phone line and phone jacks inside your home are removed or disconnected, you will have no other option for a landline phone other than a cordless phone.
This is highly undesirable as cordless phone use has similar brain tumour risks to mobile phones.(See here for a discussion and link to the literature.) . Homes where there are children should prioritise having a corded landline so that children can make calls safely because children’s thinner skulls absorb more potentially carcinogenic radiation than do the larger and thicker skulls of adults. if they use a cordless phone or cell phone. Moreover, for most models of cordless phones, the phone bases emit microwave radiation 24/7 even when the phone is not in use.
If the existing copper phone line and phone jacks inside your home are removed or disconnected, you will have to keep the wireless system on at all times that you want to have a landline phone available.
(With many other wireless internet set-ups, you can at least turn off your wi-fi router when you are not using it – and especially at night when it is particularly undesirable to be exposed to microwave radiation – and have a corded landline phone available in case of emergencies. If the copper phone line system in your home is removed/disconnected you will not have this option.)
Are there solutions?
Theoretically, it should be possible to enjoy ultrafast broadband via fibre without the disadvantages and potential health risks of wireless phones and wireless internet.
If you are considering an ultrafast broadband system key points to check with any potential provider would include the following:
- Whether the existing copper phone line and phone jacks will be retained and be in a functional condition if you choose to have the ultrafast broadband fibre optic cabling installed. (If you can retain copper cabling and phone jacks then you can have a safe, corded phone.)
- What sort of line filters (If any) you may need for a corded landline phone with the system and how much they cost.
- If you use phone extension cords for your landline corded phone, whether these are compatible with the system.
- Whether the WANs (Wireless Area Networks) of the “Residential Gateway” can be disabled and how this can be done. (If the WANs can be disabled you can connect to the internet via a safe fibre optic cable rather than being constantly exposed to pulsed microwave radiation as you would be if the WANs cannot be disabled.)
- How many Ethernet cable connections will be provided on the “Residential Gateway” supplied by the company.
- Whether the External Termination Point (ETP) and the Optic Network Terminal (ONT) that would be installed have any wireless capabilities, and if so whether or not this capacity can be disabled (and how this can be done.)
- What the system will cost.
- What provisions there are for a refund if you are not happy with the performance of the system or if any components of the system do cause health impacts.
NB: There may well be other questions that you may want to ask; I am not a digital native and the above list of questions is not exhaustive.
I would suggest asking these (or any other) questions in writing (such as by email).
This would potentially provide some protection in the event of a staff member from any company providing incorrect information to you – as an email would provide proof that you were not given correct information about the system you purchased. This should potentially give you a greater chance of getting a refund or negotiating another satisfactory solution if the ultrafast broadband system did not perform as advertised and/or if there were undisclosed wireless emissions (or any other components of the system) caused symptoms necessitating removal of the system.
I would welcome feedback from readers who have had good or bad experiences with providers of ultrafast broadband internet services.
It would be especially useful to know if there are providers who will ensure that people who want to enjoy ultrafast broadband can do so while retaining a corded landline phone, cable-based internet and no microwave radiation emissions from any of the ultrafast broadband system components.
Ed note: The NZ Journal of Natural Medicine frequently features articles about various aspects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and health. Previous issues have included articles about smart meters, “dirty electricity” and issue (19) features an interview with Professor Olle Johansson on electrohypersensitivity (EHS). To purchase a copy or to download a free sample of an issue, please visit our online shop at this link: http://www.naturalmedicine.net.nz/shop/