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On a summer day in 1996, Al Larson, the mayor of Schaumburg, Ill., stopped by his local post office and was shocked to find a 100-foot tower looming overhead. “It literally went up over the weekend,” he recalls. Neither the U.S. Post Office nor UniSite, its contractor, had received a permit for the tower, designed to hold antennae for wireless service providers. They said they didn’t need one. Under a little-known provision in the Telecommunication Act of 1996, all federal land is fair game.

Two years ago, as battles raged over indecency standards and deregulation, little attention was paid to the act’s Section 704, which prevents state and local governments from barring the construction of wireless facilities on federal property.

That means that towers and antennae may be popping up not only at your post office, but also at national parks, if the price is right. Dick Young, special uses manager for the National Park Service, says the NPS has already received about 100 inquiries from wireless operators since the act took effect. And even though language in the law states that national monuments and wildlife sanctuaries be spared, that doesn’t ease the concerns of some. Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy and James Jefford recently introduced legislation that would overturn parts of the provision. Says Leahy: “I do not want Vermont turned into a giant pincushion with 200-foot towers indiscriminately sprouting on every mountain and in every valley.”

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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