Former cable giants AT&T and Verizon have US lawmakers calling for action

Grow up / AT&T will be at the Mobile World Congress on February 27, 2023, in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

Getty Images | Joan Cros Garcia-Corbis

New complaints about lead-containing telephone cables installed in the US decades ago are forcing companies like AT&T and Verizon to identify the location of all cables and address any potential health problems caused by the toxic metal.

US Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass) wrote a letter to UStelecom’s trading group this week after the Wall Street Journal research report titled, “America Is Wrapped in Miles of Toxic Lead Cables.” The WSJ reported that it had found evidence of more than 2,000 lead-containing cables and that “there are more nationwide.”

WSJ reporters had investigators collect samples as part of their investigation. They “found that where there was lead contamination, the soil concentration was very high under or near the cables, and fell within a few feet—an indication that the control was coming from the cable,” the report said.

Markey wrote to USTelecom that, “According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, ‘AT&T, Verizon and other telecom giants have left massive cables coated with toxic lead that are spreading across the US, underground, in the soil and in trees. Above… As the lead deteriorates , ends up in the places where Americans live, work and play.’”

Marky wants answers

Markkey wants answers to a few questions by July 25:

Do these companies know the location and distance of the lead cables they own or have—whether aerial, underwater, or underground? Are there maps of places and stops? If not, what plans do companies have to identify cables?

Why have companies that were aware of the cables—and the obvious dangers they pose—failed to monitor or take action?

Markey also asked what plans telcos have to deal with health and public health issues that may arise from lead wires. He asked the companies to commit to “testing for soil, water, and other contamination of the cables,” to eliminate any contamination, and to warn the public of potential hazards.

Markey also asked USTelecom whether the phone companies would guarantee “medical assistance and compensation to anyone injured by lead poisoning caused by cables.”

Markkey is not the only one expressing concern. “There is no safe level of exposure to lead-there is none—that’s why I’m so saddened by reports of wiretapping across the country,” US Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) he told the WSJ. “It is important that these cables are properly investigated and managed.”

Rep. Patrick Ryan (D-NY) told the Journal that he is considering legislation to address cable pollution and that telecom companies should “do the right thing and clean up their mess.” The magazine reported that his experiment at the Ryan County playground “registered several streams under the aerial cable running around the park.”

Quick Read Article mentioned Analysts at New Street Research say “the WSJ story suggests that the phone industry may face financial challenges that the market did not anticipate” and that AT&T is facing “significant exposure” due to the growth of its network. .

USTelecom: No need to panic

A spokesperson for USTelecom told Ars today, “We are playing an important role in this matter. The US telecom industry prioritizes the health and safety of our communities and workers. We have not seen, or regulators have identified, evidence that legacy telecom cables are the cause of lead exposure. or causes a public health problem.”

USTelecom also launched “Telecom Cable Facts” website relieve stress. “Use of lead alloys in telecom cables started in the 1880s and the company began eliminating the installation of new cables in the 1950s after developing a new type of sheathing,” the trade group’s website said. fire alarms, and other lighting.”

We contacted AT&T and Verizon today and will update this story if we hear back.

The WSJ reported: “For years, telecom companies have known about the lead wire and the apparent dangers to their workers, according to documents and interviews with former employees. , but they did not take any action on accidents that could harm the health of the surrounding area or try to control the cables.”

Markey’s letter called this passage from the article “particularly concerning” and “grossly corporate irresponsibility.” He said the telecom companies have a “official and legitimate” duty to deal with the problem and promised to “keep a close eye on my seats in the Senate committees that have power over the environment and the health of the existing cables.” Markey is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety.

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