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5G protesters sabotage Dutch phone towers

Sou-Jie van Brunnersum
April 11, 2020

Opponents of the rollout of a new 5G data network have damaged and set alight several towers in the Netherlands. Activists have expressed concerns over possible health risks and privacy violations.

A phone tower and headquarters of Dutch telecommunications provided KPN
Image: imago images/Steinach/S. Steinach

Protesters targeted a number of cellular broadcasting towers throughout the Netherlands to oppose the new 5G telecommunications network, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Saturday.

Towers in Rotterdam, Liessel, Beesd and Nuenen were severely damaged by fire, Rob Bongelaar told the newspaper. Bongelaar is director of The Monet Foundation, an association that oversees the placement of cell towers and coordinates with state governments on behalf of network operators including KPN, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

"The operators are doing their utmost to keep the mobile networks up and running in this difficult time," Bongelaar added. He said that the words, "F*** 5G" were written on the transmission box at one of the attack sites.

Read more: What does 5G have to do with coronavirus? Where did it come from? Your questions answered

'Desperately needed' for hospitals

"The availability of a reliable digital infrastructure is essential. The connections are desperately needed for hospitals and care homes … and then there are those who deliberately set radio masts on fire. Incomprehensible and unacceptable," Bongelaar said.

De Telegraaf also reported a possible arson incident on Friday evening in the northern city of Groningen.

In a statement, the Dutch government's Security and Counter-Terrorism (NCTV) announced it had registered "various incidents" around broadcasting antennas in the past week, including arson and sabotage, adding that opposition to the 5G plan is a possible cause.

"This is a concerning development," NCTV said. The body added that similar attacks have been occurring recently in the UK.

Read more: EU rules out Huawei ban — but maps out strict rules on 5G

Health and privacy concerns

Various groups in the Netherlands have been opposed to the 5G network for some time, largely due to health concerns such as radio waves that could potentially be harmful to human health. Others say that the network could violate privacy rights.

In January, around a hundred people rallied against the 5G network at Amsterdam's Dam Square, calling for its rejection on the basis of health and well-being.

As the major telecommunications providers in the country await a June spectrum auction before it can commence a nationwide rollout of 5G telecommunications, a testing phase is currently in place.

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