CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Unless you saw them going up this week, you probably didn't even notice the newest additions to uptown Charlotte.
You can now find small cell phone towers on almost every block in the heart of the city. They're the same ones the Piper Glen neighborhood in south Charlotte tried to keep away in 2016.
Also called nodes, 130 of them are already uptown, and 70 more are completed or planned in other parts of the Queen City. A company called Crown Castle has mapped out possible locations for the low-powered antennas, including near midtown, Providence Road, Brookshire Freeway, Lake Norman, south Charlotte, and Matthews.
Many of the towers are already in place. Installed on public right of way, the company said the nodes pave the way to one-day support next-generation networks like 5G, which promise to expand "smart city" innovations.
"Crown Castle shares the city of Charlotte's commitment to making it one of the most connected cities in the world, so that opportunities are available to all of its residents, businesses and visitors," Crown Castle Government Affairs Manager Ann Brooks said.
"In Charlotte, where there is population growth and an increase in data demand, there is an immediate need for more wireless network capacity. Crown Castle will continue to work with the city to provide the critical communications infrastructure required to achieve the vision of a connected city," she added.
The company considers itself "the nation's largest provider of shared communications infrastructure -- connecting people and businesses to essential data, technology and wireless service."
Weichao Wang, a UNC Charlotte wireless expert, previously said he welcomed the added bandwidth and higher speeds that come with 5G. He estimated we'll eventually see nodes every 100 to 500 yards.
"In the short-term and the long-term I will say the customers will benefit," he said. "The technology is rolling forward. It does not matter whether or not we like it."
Cell towers and the radiation that come with them have remained the subject of criticism by the Environmental Health Trust. The founder argued last year 5G is far less studied for human or environmental impacts.
"We should not be experimenting on our children and ourselves by making it widespread without adequate safety data," Dr. Devra Davis said.
The antennas installed this week include an assurance that the towers don't exceed the FCC public exposure standard. Supporters said, generally, there are no established health hazards from exposure to radio frequency emissions below federal standards.
With Bob Scanlan's history of a brain tumor, you might think the new towers would have his attention, but he said he's not overly concerned.
"Today is two years and two days since I had a non-malignant brain tumor removed," he said. "I'm not worried about that. Who knows what the health impact is right, but hopefully, it's not that big a deal."
Since they're meant to blend in, Scanlan didn't see the towers until we pointed them out. He said he can understand their purpose.
"The cell phone generation, actually, they're taking over and it's fine," he said. "When I want connectivity, it's nice to have it.".