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CTIA weighs challenge to revised SF cell phone law

Though San Francisco revised its previous legislation over cell phone radiation after CTIA objections, the organization is considering another legal challenge.

CTIA spokesman John Walls CTIA

Just when you thought the legal battles between the CTIA and the city of San Francisco were over, it appears that the fight may continue.

In an interview today, a spokesman for the wireless industry's trade group told CNET that the organization is strongly considering challenging a new city law that requires San Francisco retailers to post informational notices that cell phones emit radiofrequency (RF) energy and offer fact sheets to consumers who request them.

John Walls, CTIA's vice president for public affairs, refused to say exactly what legal recourse the group is considering, but that it is keeping all options open. "We're certainly placing [the law] under review and looking at the language of the ordinance," he said. "There are still some things that we take exception to and we're looking at legal options to address those."

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The "Right to Know" ordinance, which the 11-member San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved unanimously on July 19, actually is a revised version of broader legislation that the previous board passed in June of last year. As originally written (PDF), that bill would also have required retailers in the city to post the specific absorption rate (SAR) of each phone sold.

As the first of its kind in the country, the law was praised by public health groups and it spawned similar legislation in other cities and a few states. Yet, it also angered the CTIA, which quickly sued San Francisco on the grounds that the SAR labeling provision in particular was unconstitutional, it was misleading to consumers, and that it infringed on the First Amendment rights of retailers.

After delaying implementation several times, city officials finally agreed in May to shelve the original law. Then in July, Supervisor John Avalos introduced the watered-down language.

Walls wouldn't comment on exactly how the CTIA disagrees with the revised legislation, except that the group is exploring whether San Francisco has overstepped its bounds. "It's about the right of a municipality to dictate how a business conducts itself in this respect and to what extent it has jurisdiction over that," he said. "That's one thing we're considering."

A call to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office was not returned at the time of this writing.