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Cell towers targeted as 5G conspiracy theory goes viral

New Zealand has joined the ranks of countries experiencing a wave of sabotage attempts against mobile networks as false claims about 5G go viral, Marc Daalder reports

Spark, 2degrees, Vodafone and the Rural Connectivity Group have all experienced threats or actual attempts of sabotage of cell towers in recent days, including attempted arson.

The New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF), the leading industry body, said in a statement that it "strongly condemns wilful damage to New Zealand’s mobile networks, which is causing disruption when the industry is responding to increased demand for phone and internet services during the Alert Level 4 Covid-19 lockdown".

Details about attempted sabotage from the major telcos were sparse, but the Rural Connectivity Group said a 4G tower, built as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative, had been damaged.

"We condemn all acts of vandalism but it’s even more frustrating to deal with an attack on critical national infrastructure during a time of national emergency. If cell towers are damaged and can’t function, then the people they serve will not only lose internet access, there is the real chance that 111 calls will be unable to get through," TCF CEO Geoff Thorn said.

"The people responsible for these criminal acts are putting New Zealand lives in danger at a time when the country is making sacrifices to rid our communities of a deadly virus. If anyone sees any suspicious behaviour near a cell site, they are asked to report this to Police."

Thorn also indicated that the sabotage might be linked to a false but popular conspiracy theory that attempts to link the spread of Covid-19 to the rollout of 5G technology. But not only have scientists identified the virus responsible for Covid-19, there is no evidence whatsoever that the technology causes any harm.

A quick comparison between the countries that have deployed 5G and those that have suffered worst from Covid-19 shows there is little correlation. For example, France, which has the fifth most cases and more than 10,000 deaths, has no 5G network. Likewise, the Netherlands ranks 12th in total infections but has no 5G network.

On the other hand, Qatar, which has had 5G since August, has reported just 2,210 cases of the virus. South Korea, which had one million 5G users in June of last year, also has half the number of cases that the Netherlands has. Even New Zealand, which launched 5G in December, has had only 1,210 cases and one death, making it the only country with more than 1,000 cases to have less than 6 deaths.

"I can’t state it clearly enough. I almost hesitate to speak to it on this platform - it is just not true," Jacinda Ardern said of the conspiracy theory on Wednesday.

"In other countries, damage to mobile networks has been linked to groups opposed to 5G.  There has been comprehensive and ongoing research into this issue and there is no evidence that 5G causes harm. The Prime Minister noted in yesterday’s press conference there was no link between 5G and Covid-19, and for more information on this subject please refer to the Chief Science Advisor’s website, as well as the Ministry of Health website," Thorn said.

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