Why your cell phone barely works in The Mission

Why Your Mobile Service Sucks, and Will Continue to Suck: Blame NIMBY Neighbors and Your San Francisco Supervisors

So there we have it: All it takes to kill an effort to provide Bernal Heights and our surrounding neighborhoods with some 21st century wireless technology is a group of addled NIMBYs and a thin veneer of recently applied graffiti. But improving service requires a master plan. Which may get written. After some research. Someday. Perhaps. Bottom line: Don’t count on your mobile reception getting any better, anytime soon.
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7 Responses:

  1. Thomas Lord says:

    I've read (and tend to believe - should I not?) that the frequencies in play here are among those that if pulsed (in amplitude) at a suitably high frequency and beamed at your head (even at relatively low power) will cause a person to hear sounds. Photons you can hear, that's right.

    Supposedly this effect was first noted in WWII while people were screwing around trying to get radar working at slightly different frequencies. Sometimes someone would step in front of a radar beam and even if it wasn't enough to melt the chocolate bar in their pocket, they would "hear" crackling noises that didn't actually exist as an externally present acoustic signal.

    There are competing theories as to how it works. One that sounds plausible to me is that it's a microscopic thermal effect: The amplitude-pulsed radiation sends waves of heat through various structures in your skull and the minute mechanical effects on your ears create the illusion of sound. Not just sound but sound that if consciously noted can sound like it's coming from inside your head and, if not consciously noted, can be mistaken for one's own internal narrative. Wikipedia has a more detailed explanation.

    And, the tin-foil hat crowd (who I happen to think are probably right in this instance) like to point to a patent and some other stuff from the 50s that suggest the spooks were -- really and for true -- working out technology to point and amplitude-modulate microwave frequency lasers at people's heads, turning the "crackles" into meaningful noise. The patent is real. If there are any serious debunkers of such evil tech... I haven't found them.

    It was also "open source" information in the 1970s that the Soviets were goofing around with pointing pulsed radiation at these frequencies at people's heads, in order to create head-aches and such. This hit the "geek press" like Omni magazine alongside stuff like laser-based eaves-dropping (point laser at window, measure interference pattern changes on reflection, interpret as accoustic signal inside the room vibrating the window --- s/window/anything suitably refective/). All old news just not all that commonly talked about.

    I don't mean to suggest that cell phone towers are part of some evil mind-control plot to point microwaves at people's heads and make them do stuff or suffer unexplained migrains.

    I do mean to point out that the (real) biological effects of coherent radiation at these frequencies are not nearly so simple as cell tower proponents would have you believe. The comparison between my microwave oven in 1980 and the prospect of increasingly just bathing continuously in these radiation patterns is unconvincing, to me. The focus on cancer as the only conceivable threat seems naive to me. We know from almost 70 years experience that radiation at these frequencies is biologically active in complicated ways that aren't fully understood, that it has the capacity for intentionally harmful use even at low power levels, and that while nature doesn't spare us from these frequencies of photons.... nor does nature customarily soak us in coherent amplitude-modulated signals at these frequencies (the very kinds of signals that are historically observed to induce new biological effects like crackling noises).

    Add to this that dismissing someone's municipal politics as NIMBY is a cliche cheap shot and.... I'm not so sure the crazy "NIMBY"s are so wrong about the desired outcome, in this case, even if they get lost in the specific science. The smug "Oh, it's safe!" types seem equally lost in the science, to me.

    • jwz says:

      Blah blah blah, I just want my phone to work.

      • Thomas Lord says:


        • L. says:

          And, where coverage is poor, your cellphone is transmitting at high power to attempt to reach distant cell towers - so you're exposed to even more radiation, and near field at that.

          I guess the NIMBYs don't carry cellphones while at home, though.

    • Bradley says:

      Christ on a pogo stick. If we took that kind of attitude toward every invention, we wouldn't have telephones at all.

      • antabakaYT says:

        And anything faster than a horse carriage is more than the human body can possibly withstand without being harmed in ways unknown to mankind thus far!

  2. Arwcw Noes says:

    Hey yeah, when did you -not- throw down for the Radioactive Squid Building? Doesn't Hughes at least have historic cipherpunks there to relay and help Silver Foxes register/cross the street?