LOCAL residents believe NBN Co and its subcontractors are exploiting planning legislation "loopholes" allowing them to build towers less than 100 metres from rural homes without seeking council approval.
Now hundreds of them are forming action groups to raise awareness about the issue after being told via mail about towers planned near their homes.
In the Lismore LGA alone, 16 towers are planned - mainly north and north east of Lismore - where rolling out fibre optic cable is too costly due to hilly terrain and wet weather.
Rachel Scott, who lives 170 metres from a planned tower in McLeans Ridges, has researched the planning laws which allow NBN Co and its subcontractors to bypass council approval.
Under 2010 NSW guidelines, mobile carriers are exempt from seeking council approval for towers, but they must be more than 100 metres from homes.
But crucially, those laws don't apply to rurally zoned properties - which is why a McLeans Ridges tower is just 50 metres from Ms Scott's neighbour Pam Hunt.
"I don't think it's fair at all. It's a loophole they've found, and they're trying to cover it up," Ms Scott said.
Another planned tower will sit within 100 metres of the Rosebank hamlet, which has nine homes and a general store.
Rosebank resident Inge Jones lives with her children just 90 metres from the planned site, on the wedge-shaped corner at the junction of Byrne Rd and Repentance Creek Rd.
Ms Jones criticised the "cloak and dagger nature" of the process, and said it was "turning neighbour against neighbour".
"It's a serious issue for us but we feel like we have no say - we're totally locked out of the negotiation process."
NBN Co did not respond to questions about its community consultation policy yesterday.