UPDATE 9/27/19: We now know who is behind many of these mysterious towers.
A Verizon spokesman, David Weissmann, confirms that the small black tubular towers are new small cellular Verizon towers, installed to "ease network congestion" and help with video streaming in areas with weaker service. He says they currently broadcast 4G LTE, but can be converted to 5G in the future.
Meantime, Sprint confirms to us that it has built the giant "space heater" tower in Cleves, to help with service along the Ohio River. However, spokeswoman Roni Singleton tells us that tower is not operating yet.
If you drive around the Cincinnati area you may have noticed mysterious cylinder-type cell phone towers, that look nothing like any cell tower most of us have seen.
Now, a growing number of Tri-Staters are getting worried about these towers, and the 5G signals they believe they will soon be sending out, as part of the nationwide rollout of faster 5G cell service.
Michelle Krinsky is a nurse who was out walking near her Cleves home earlier this summer, when she looked up and said, "What's that? You can see it's this ugly menace sitting there," she said.
Right at the entrance to the Village of Cleves from US 50 (River Road) is the strangest looking cell tower many people have ever seen.
Dean Beckett, who owns Ann's Tavern nearby, says his customers have been asking him about it.
"It looks like a big heater to me," he said, "I have no idea what it is."
Krinsky decided to call the village administration office, then Hamilton County, and the State of Ohio, but no one knew anything about it, she says.
The most information she and some other homeowners were able to find out is that the tower is on the US 50 right-of-way, not in the Village, so that local officials would not have to be consulted.
"We don't know who put it up, if it is running 4G right now, and if it will run 5G soon," she said.
Why 5G service sparks fears
5G cell service has become the hottest controversy in many communities this year, as Verizon rolls it out to its first 30 cities -- among them, Cincinnati.
Krinsky has now joined those protesting it locally, because she says we don't know enough about health effects.
Some studies claim 5G transmissions can contribute to a variety of health problems, and a number of cities are attempting to stop the towers and slow the rollout.
"As a registered nurse, I am very much about informed consent," she said, "which is the right to choose, the right to decline." But she says community residents were never given an option when it came to the giant cylinder tower.
How do you know if 5G is coming?
Here's telltale sign your community is about get 5G towers: You'll see white PVC tubes, typically with an orange cap, popping out of the ground. WCPO reported on these strange tubes when they started appearing last year, with "Verizon Fiber" printed on them.
These pipes contain fiber lines that then connect all the 5G towers, as they have to be connected with fiber line to reach their promised high speeds.
The Facebook group SWORT, Southwest Ohio for Reasonable Technology, claims it has spotted small, cylindrical 5G towers in Finneytown, West Chester, Liberty Township, and in Springdale by the Tri-County Mall.
But the FCC allows these towers to go in with almost no local approval. The FCC and FAA claim there are no proven links between 5G cell service and health effects, and say local residents have no reason to fear these new towers.
But Hamilton County Engineer Ted Hubbard told us a few months ago that even he, and other county officials are left in the dark.
"The ownership is a big question," Hubbard said. "And I have asked that. We are having a hard time finding out who actually owns it."
That means no one has publicly stated who owns the mysterious Cleves tower, or any of the others popping up across the Tri State. It has no company name on the base.
A Verizon corporate spokesman, David Weissmann, confirmed to WCPO that the company is installing 5G towers in the Cincinnati area -- as he says one of the 30 cities that will soon have Verizon 5G service.
However, he said the strange Cleves tower "is not Verizon equipment."
Which means the mystery continues about the alien-looking structure towering over the Village of Cleves.
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