Amish / 5G: now ideological, the debate fractures the political class

After security, immigration, health policy, now 5G is emerging as a new ideological divide within the French political class. While the call for tenders for the allocation of the frequencies necessary for the deployment of the new generation of mobile technologies will begin on September 29 under the aegis of Arcep, its usefulness is today questioned by some elected officials. from the left. In a column published this weekend in the columns of Sunday newspaper, elected ecologists and Insoumis have indeed called to suspend, “at least until the summer of 2021”, the deployment of 5G by pleading its environmental and health impact presumed.

For the latter, the deployment of 5G “takes place without a climatic and environmental impact study, nor any prior public consultation”, even though “the real usefulness of 5G is far from being as obvious as the operators claim. or the government ”. And to rely on an alleged “rebound effect” – the existence of which is far from proven – to conclude that the generalization of 5G will automatically lead to “an increase in data consumption and telecommunications use, synonymous with very high energy consumption due to the demand on antennas and servers ”.

While it is true that no study has, for now, established of the harmlessness of 5G and its absence of environmental impact, for lack of available data, should the precautionary principle take precedence over innovation? The question now divides the political class, including even within the ranks of the opposition.

Asked about France Info the day after the publication of this forum that he had signed, the MEP and leader of Europe-Ecology The Greens (EELV) Yannick Jadot said for his part to be “convinced that [la 5G] could contribute to ecological transition in certain sectors ”… while calling for a public debate and more education on the issue.

Emmanuel Macron puts oil on the fire

While the political class has not yet really grasped the issue, 5G now seems to draw a rough ideological divide between supporters and opponents of innovation … to its greatest misfortune. It should be remembered that what we find under the acronym of 5G only covers a set of technologies mainly intended to optimize the use of radio frequencies, adopted from the 3GPP-R15 standard (and especially 3GPP-R16 ) by the global body responsible for standardizing technical specifications for next-generation mobile networks.

Alas, while the subject deserves more pedagogy and perspective – as claimed for several months the president of Arcep Sébastien Soriano – he is now overused in what could roughly be reduced to a quarrel between “old” and “modern”, which seems to have nothing more rational. A pitfall in which also engulfed the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, who did not fail to add fuel to the fire on Monday, during a meeting organized at the Elysee with a hundred of representatives of French Tech.

“I do not believe that the Amish model makes it possible to solve the challenges of contemporary ecology”, declared the head of state, who is the champion of innovation by reducing opponents to 5G to those who would prefer the “return to the oil lamp”. “I hear many voices rising to explain to us that we should take up the complexity of contemporary problems by going back to the oil lamp! I do not believe that the Amish model allows to solve the challenges of contemporary ecology, ”added the latter, referring to this American religious community known for its hostility to certain technologies.

These remarks should not help calm the political game that is developing around the use of 5G, even though France now lags considerably behind its European neighbors, a large majority of which already have networks being deployed. It remains to be seen whether the ignition of the public debate on the issue will not hamper the smooth running of the race for 5G frequencies, which will enter its final sprint. starting September 29.

A welcome report to reassure?

While 5G has its share of detractors, its defenders can count on a report from different administrative authorities – the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs (IGAS), the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF), the General Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development (CGEDD) and the General Council for the Economy (CGE) – to provide different arguments to support the new generation of mobile technologies.

Chance of the calendar, it is indeed during the political quarrel that this report, which was initially to be published last week, was unveiled to the public and delivered to the executive. From the outset, its authors want to be reassuring. “The exposure of different audiences to electromagnetic waves, which remains, with some exceptions, well below the commonly accepted limit values, should remain moderate in the first phase of the deployment of 5G”, believe the latter, who however call for differentiate between the different frequency bands used for 5G, namely the 3.5 GHz band and the – so-called millimeter – 26 GHz band.

Regarding the queen band of 5G, that of 3.5 GHz, “the elements available to date allow us to estimate that the introduction of 5G in the 3.5 GHz band with active antennas will not generate a break in the matter. exposure in urban areas, where it will mainly be deployed, compared to changes observed with existing networks, ”they indicate. While recognizing that its deployment could “contribute to an increase in the number of atypical points (that is to say subjected to a field greater than 6 V / m, Editor’s note), which should be the subject of vigilance particular “.

However, the latter call for more attention to be paid to “subsequent use of the band around 26 GHz, which will bring about new effects that remain to be documented”. However, the authors of this report agree on this point: in the state of current knowledge, and if vigilance remains in order, there is no need to worry about the health effects of 5G. , even though “less than 1% of exposure measurements carried out annually by the ANFR exceed the level retained for atypical points”. All that remains is the question – eminently political this one – of the environmental consequences of 5G, which will be left to the appreciation of everyone … and the political class.

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