CELL phone tower in the wilderness

Folk U Radio returns with a Telus Tower update @89.5 Friday

What is happening with the proposed Telus Towers on Cortes Island? What’s proposed? What input will islanders have? What exactly is the technology proposed? Will another tower in Manson’s fix our island cell problems? What is 5G and how is this different than City West’s fibre-optic proposal?

Image credit: Phone in the wilderness – Photo by Lukas Schroeder on Unsplash

(Minutes by Roy L Hales)

Manda’s preamble:

Today we are taking our skills as neighbors and applying them to one of the big issues of the day on Cortes. TELUS has presented a proposal to put a series of new towers on Cortez island to use both for cell service and 5g/ 6g services and to lease space other 5g/ 6g providers. The first of these are slated for landing in the heart of Manson’s landing village on the lands, belonging to our Tla’amin nation neighbors.

This is just the newest development in a relationship with the TELUS corporation and their desire to place more cell phone and now wireless internet capable towers on Cortez island. To better understand more of this story where we are today, the Cortez island community response, the concerns of nearby neighbors, what the different technologies mean.

I have a variety of guests coming on today, including our Regional District Representative, Noba Anderson neighbor and Safe Tech Cortes representative Yulia, there’s a bunch of last names here that are actually really hard to say that I’m just realizing I did not practice saying them beforehand. So I’m going to use first names for now a local island boy and former twin calm superstar Om Beach and local reporter Anastasia and you neighbor.

I want to hear from you as always, uh, and I’ve already heard from some of you, so thank you. So this is a full house, but I am going to leave time to have call-ins from you. So thanks again to those who already emailed us at you at folk U letter U S. L K E u.ca and during breaks, I’m going to put on some musical interludes interludes, as I often do and I hope you will call in at (250) 935-0200. So when you call in, I will give you the option today to go on the air. So exciting opportunities here at Folk U today.

But if you do go on the air, then I ask you please to remember, to keep it short, short, really short, short, shorter than maybe you think, and to keep your language family friendly. So G rated re our community radio here.

So where are you listening from today neighbour? Who are those people that have walked and cared for the land, the water, the air, where you live, work and play? Cortes Community Radio sits on the ancestral and territorial land of the Klahoose, Tla’amin and the Homalco peoples.

I’d like to thank this land, The people who’ve walked this land through time and all those that continue to love and worked on, or this place we call home.

I will also take a moment to make a disclaimer, the views that you will hear today, including my own personal views are those of the people that hold them. They are not necessarily shared by the staff, the board, the volunteers of this, your community radio station. If you have differing information, opinions, or views as always, I invite you to share them by calling in today to 250-935-0200, or just emailing me to let me know at the letter you@folkyou.ca.

All right, excuse that long intro today, there are many disclaimers that we must make. So welcomed very much to our first guests director, Noba Anderson. Thank you so much for being here.

Noba Anderson: beginnings of project

Noba: Thank you, kindly. My pleasure.

Manda: And I invited you today because you have done on the Tideline and other places, a really great, and fulsome -what I felt like was really great and fulsome kind of -overview of what is going on with this Telus tower proposal and how it is different from those, and similar to those that have come forward in the near future, or the near past to your future. Hopefully we don’t know that yet, but maybe we can predict, so the, the recent memory proposals, so what’s different now and what’s similar from what’s coming.

Noba: Okay, well, thank you. So I was first approached by TELUS just over a year ago. I would say maybe November, so a year and a bit ago, expressing their interest in erecting three telecommunications towers. I don’t know that they actually technically call them cell phone towers, but that’s what we use colloquially.

And so I entered into a good spirited conversation around where those might go and what kind of community engagement there might be. So they quite rightly addressed the regional district as the land use planning authority for the majority of the lands of Cortes Island. In January, just a year ago now.

And let us know that they were interested in indeed three towers and they didn’t have a specific locations for all of them, but we’re interested in one in each of our three sort of main neighborhoods of Squirrel Cove Mansons and Whaletown. I don’t remember specifically at the time whether they presented at the board, but I think at that time they shared with us that they were interested in putting one up on lands that they own privately owned just up the hill here from the hall, at the intersection of Beasley and Rexford road. They’ve got oh three or five acres or so there that they have a little building on.

And at the time the Regional District responded saying that they wanted a rezoning process because in our zoning bylaw that was written some decades ago, this original piece, the community wanted input on where large towers went. However, rightly so it really is a federal jurisdiction. It’s not really our place to demand rezoning applications. So we said, well, then please engage in some kind of community consultation process that is similar in, in depth and breadth to a rezoning process, which allows for a community meeting in person, allows for people to write in and, and see each other’s comments and have a community discussion.

I made it known that I was interested in having the community here, the full three proposals rather than, you know, one at a time. And so they began a community input process for a proposal on their land, as I say up the way. Um, but it was just written comment that they were inviting. They didn’t offer a community meeting because the federal regulations don’t require it.

Now, maybe they would’ve gotten to that on that land. I don’t know, but they received certainly enough comment that wasn’t super supportive, that they kind of went back to think about what other options there were. I was copied on 60 letters. I don’t know if that was all or half or, I don’t know but the vast majority, I think all but two of those letters were not in support as presently proposed necessarily. I think there were two letters that just said, go for it. Great. We need them. And the others either had great concerns around health effects or around community process. Most of the letters wanted some kind of more fulsome community process.

Noba: the Tla’amin

So that file got closed and all of that community input closed with it. And they opened a new application proposal just down the road on the Tla’amin Nation’s treaty land and Tla’amin has its own land use planning authority – as its own nation, its own land. And by absolute all rights has the ability to decide what happens on that land.

So, TELUS is now in conversation with the Tla’amin Nation about locating a tower there and did it, as far as I can tell the bare Federal requirements in terms of community consultation. They advised, they put a note in the print media, which is they required to do. And the closest one that they were aware of was on Quadra and they advised the two immediate neighbors.

I have not seen any outreach by them beyond that. And I certainly know that community members here have spread the word beyond. And there’s, there’s a lot of response. I haven’t asked people to copy me on this round of letters because it’s not my land use planning authority. It’s not my decision, but I have reached out to Tla’amin and have asked for an audience with them to be able to give the larger context of Cortes and the Connected Coast Project and the interplay between the two and share with them the letters that were received in the first round that I don’t think they will receive otherwise through TELUS.

Manda: And can you tell me a little bit more about what you know, around the closing out of that first round? So you said that they closed their first proposal. It apparent. Like either. I mean, was it denied? Was it not successful or do they just re withdraw their bid? And I know that part of, at that time, what you would ask them as part of that proposal was if they could wait to see what the community feel was after the connected coast process. So can you tell us a little bit more about those aspects?

Noba: Sure. So the Regional District, if my memory serves correct only asks that they engage in a meaningful community consultation process. I then further asked them to hold off until the Connected Coast fibre -optic cable was in the ground and connected to people’s homes, because I’m interested to know how that will change the telecommunications landscape.

It might not change the phone landscape very much, and it might have more impact than people think. And I’ve learned a whole lot, even in the last year about how the fibre will potentially change in the foam landscape. Sorry, I’ve lost track of your questions. So the interplay between that and connect to coast.

Oh, the file. Closing of the file. So I only learned recently in my outreach to TELUS, cause I called to ask if the input received from the first round would be shared with Tla’amin or could I receive copies of them or would they notify those people writing that there was another proposal and they treat it as just an entirely separate matter. As far as I know, it’s not a bid or an application to anyone else, it’s simply them going through their required community consultation process. And then if they think it’s a good spot, then they will proceed and they will go to the land use planning authority, which would have been the Regional District in that case, and have asked for our support, our land use support and with our support, then they would have erected a tower and informed the feds of it.

But there isn’t really an approval process as far as I’m aware with the federal government but they do require concurrence from the land use authority. So either the Regional District or a First Nation. So because they decided to not pursue that location, they simply close the file and opened an entire new one down the road, which I understand, but it’s, doesn’t hold a whole community view of things. Their assessment is that it would only be people immediately adjacent that would be particularly impacted in particularly care. And perhaps in a suburban environment, that’s much more the case, but as we well know, Cortes has a real sense of itself and likes to hear what we all think and have a conversation with each other and understand what’s happening on the whole island that I may live in Whaletown, but I still care what’s happening in the other neighborhoods here.

So, anyway, that’s just not the rules that they have to follow and therefore are not going above and beyond that.

Noba: Locations

Manda: And do we know anything about the rest of that proposal? Are the other towers … Sounds like they’re not actually part of this proposal because each tower is its own thing, but are they talking about their plan as a whole? Do you know any other details about what’s actually on the table?

Noba: Sure. I know that they had in Squirrel Cove, looked at at least one private property to locate a tower. And I know there was some conversation with the Klahoose Nation about potentially locating a tower on the reserve lands there. I was recently informed by TELUS that the Squirrel Cove proposal, wherever it may go is not being pursued at this time.

Now, I don’t know if that means they’ll pick it up in a month or a year or never, or I don’t know, but I certainly know that they did walk three and I wouldn’t expect it would be otherwise. In Whaletown, I know that they approached a number of different landowners over the past year looking for an appropriate site and I understand that there is a draft agreement with one land owner in Whaletown. And the only way I directly got that out, although I’ve heard rumor from many sources was from the piece that Anastasia did with TELUS. And TELUS did indeed confirm that they’re working on a proposal in Whaletown and I believe I know where that is. I don’t have that firsthand but wherever it is in Whaletown, it would be part of the Strathcona Regional District’s land use planning authority. So they would be coming to us shortly, presumably with some kind of proposal there and in Squirrel Cove could go either way. It could be with the SRD, if it’s not on Klahoose, or it would go with Klahoose if it was on their land.

So first it’s finding a place to put it, and then it’s getting what you described as concurrence with the land use planning authority, which in the case of the tower and Manson’s village is the Tla’amin. But in the case, if it were a private landowner or some other place on the island that was not First Nations is the Strathcona Regional District.

Is that right? And so I did reach out to the Regional District to better understand what would like to do, like, do we have zoning around this? Do we have guidelines, et cetera? And so I reached out to Aniko Nelson and she is the senior manager of community services with the Regional District. What I asked for was not so much of a media statement. I was just asking for clarification about what kind of power do local communities have usually? And she says that local governments cannot prohibit cell towers through zoning, and they have limited jurisdiction over the installation of cell towers, especially in absence of a tower placement policy or protocol, which the Strathcona Regional District does not have. Policy or protocol is still limited in that it is primarily limited to informing the sighting and height of the tower and setting out the consultation process required. Where there is no policy in place. The cell providers are required to consult as per the innovation, science and economic economic development I S E D Canada default process. And there is a link about where you can go and learn more about that process. And then she says, this is problematic when telecoms place cell towers on other federal or First Nation’s lands, which effectively negates municipal and regional government input and requirements for letter of concurrence, but I’m assuming that they’re still letters of concurrence required by the First Nation. That’s okay, but in this case, this siding, the First Nation, which has the land, which is required to give concurrence, does not have neighbors of that nation living directly under the tower proposed tower, I believe is that right?

Well, there is no residents. There’s no Tla’amin residents at Paukeanum at this time. No. My understanding is that they are interested in doing things with that land, seasonal for now, and potentially a village in the long run, but at present, no, there’s no inhabitants there. And although the nation is responsible to its membership, I trust that as a government body, they will be open to input received by the people who believe themselves to be effected by the tower and have certainly been responsive to my outreaches.

Do we know whether the Tla’amin Nation have telecommunication protocols in place already? When I read the statement from the SRD, it sounds like we are indeed in sort of a more reactive place as a community because we don’t have these protocols.

If we, as a regional district had developed a policy that said, ‘Hey, when there’s a proposal for telecommunications tower, this is the kind of community consultation that we want and here’s some of the parameters we can’t say no, but here’s some of the considerations that we’d like you to take into a place. It could have been more robust than the very minimum federal default, but we don’t have that. And so when I suggest to TELUS that they do a more robust consultation, often they’ll respond saying ‘well, but you haven’t guided us to it.’

So, we have this default that we’re we’re doing which certainly wouldn’t preclude them from holding a public community meeting, but we haven’t written it down as a regional district level and required them to do so.

Noba: Better reception on Quadra

Manda: What is happening on Quadra or any of the other kind of small remote communities within the SRD. I’ve personally experienced far better cell phone service now on Quadra when waiting for the ferry. So I’m assuming something has happened there. Do you know what’s been going on?

Noba: I don’t know enough to really speak to it? Well, my understanding was that the cell phone service improvement that happened at Heriot Bay and around the Gorge Marina came from these little micro cells that just increase cell phone reception in a very small little zone.

And that’s something that I asked, tell us about like a decade ago, whether they could do in a few neighborhoods on Cortes, uh, to cover some of the population nodes here. And they said it was just cost prohibitive at the time that unlessthere was a population like Willow Point , that they just wouldn’t do it.

Noba: could Cortes get min-repeaters?

Please talk to Om about this later, but he shared a map that seems to indicate that TELUS has already put up five such little mini repeaters along their lines on the island that are not yet activated. Similarly the City West/ Connected Coast project could put up these little micro cells or mini micro cells, I think they call them, which are like a wifi repeating hub, but for cell phone reception.

I’m going to digress a little bit here into the connection between Connected Coast, but it could be, and this is early exploratory days and I don’t want to promise something for Connected Coast when I have no authority to do so, but I have asked them to look into the possibility of putting up these cell phone booster stations, if you will, along our road networks, because mostly what I’m hearing from people who are really in supportive cell phone towers is safety is emergency preparedness is being able to call 9 1 1 from people’s homes, from the road, from the beach late at night, whatever it might be.

And so if we can, whoever provider, I don’t mind provide better cell phone service along the roads, that might alleviate some safety concerns. And also the connected coast project.

Noba: Phone & TV too!

If you sign up for internet through, through CityWest, you’ll be able to get internet based phone calling for … something relatively nominal.

Click here: CityWest Regional Manager Dino Tsakonas said the phone packages are always in the +$20 range.

Noba: That means your actual landline, it’s not a computer phone, instead of your landline being connected into the TELUS wire that runs along the telephone poles, it can be connected into the fibre-optic cable that’s buried under the ground everywhere around the island. So it will be less prone to disruptions from power outages and when throw and lines down because everything will be buried. And I just, I have no idea whether people are going to embrace this and give their landlines over to that or not. I don’t know how to predict people’s responses there, but if people really embrace that it might be a relative game changer in terms of emergency access. So I think really one of the main thrusts for TELUS bid for cell phone towers all up and down the coast isn’t just Cortes is really wanting to continue to be competitive in the internet market, in the cell based internet market.

And fair enough competition is great. I hope that you know where there’s good, good packages and prices available for, for all the providers. but I just really would because the towers are such a divisive issue, it leads me to think there must be some middle ground something yet we haven’t discovered and thought of.

And so I would just like it to be staged such that it’s only going to be another few months, get the fibre-optic in the ground, see how that changes the landscape. And then let’s have a cell phone tower conversation, absolutely. In a really good way, where we can hear each other, where we know the proposals across the whole island and can have a good conversation, but that’s just not TELUS’ procedure.

So here we are kind of you trying to push something a bit. So the public input closes on this coming Monday on the 31st to the tower at Paukeanum at what sort of is locally known as the maple tree, the end of Rexford road there. So if you do want to write letters, pro con whatever, and I’ve certainly heard the gamut from people who think this is just the absolute basic requirement for modern day living to others who literally think that they might have to take their lives if it goes up because they’re already so compromised with their health.

So anyway, the comment period for that is up on the 31st. And as I said, I’ve asked to present a little bit of a bigger picture and some of the previous comments to Tla’amin. I don’t have any sense of what Tla’amin’s timeframe would be in terms of making that decision, or erecting a tower, but it could certainly happen this spring if all parties were willing.

So public input, if people want to figure out how to give public input, what would you recommend for them?

You write to Brian Gregg, who is a consultant with TELUS. Interestingly enough, TELUS contracts out there, public engagement cause it’s a headache I would imagine. He writes a summary report of all of the input received and gives that summary report. I’m hoping along with the letters, but I don’t actually know that for sure, but I trust so to Tla’amin to make a decision. So you need to write to Brian, but I encourage people to also copy their letters to Tla’amin.

So the Tla’amin has them directly. And then on a bunch of the articles, it’s also suggested to copy them to the feds, to industry Canada. I’m not sure why to be honest, I don’t think they really do anything with them, but it can’t hurt and then there’s the safe tech group you’re going to be speaking with somebody later.

They’ve they’ve welcomed people to copy letters to them so that there is sort of a, a community record of input because we don’t know what TELUS and the land use planning authorities will necessarily do with that communication. So if you want them kind of out in the public domain, uh outside of the realm of FOI bowl, um, privacy considerations, then safe tech is collect.

And so we know that then this is, so what you’ve told us a little bit about what the next steps are. The consultation ends, um, on January 31st. And then do we know anything more about the next steps on this proposal and, and whether this is the beginning or the end or what?

Well, I know that the letters that are being received byTla’amin are indeed the woman there. I think it’s Denise, who I spoke with who’s on staff and receiving those letters. She will be writing up a summary report for that nation’s consideration. The letter that I wrote to the executive council there has been received and will be discussed on February 2nd, that they’re meeting.

I’ve asked to appear as a delegation at their meeting mid February, so presumably a decision won’t be made by them until, you know, mid, late February at the earliest. But I have no sense of where they’re at speaking with Eric Blaney, who seems to be the, the main contact person at Tla’amin for this one.

He’s their emergency coordinator representative, he’s very pro communications for emergency preparedness reasons. He’s been great with me and has indicated that they’re in early stages of communication will TELUS about the matter. And then presumably we’ll hear something about the proposal and Whaletown at the Regional District soon and Squirrel Cove is on hold for now, as far as I understand from Telus.

Are tourists the only people who carry cell phones on Cortes Island? – Photographed by Los Angeles based digital marketing agency https://truenorthsocial.com/

(That was an edited word for word transcription of most of the first 22 minutes, here are some notes from the remainder of this 2 hour program.)

Letter from Rob Chapman on the Tideline:

  • Over 97% of Canadians have access to standard cell phone services
  • there is no legislative or regulatory avenue in Canada for a government level below the federal level, or for a local citizens group, to deny access to federally approved cell phone services to a local area within Canada.

Yulia Kochubievsky, Safe Tech Cortes

  • has not read a single letter supporting a tower so close to houses, one of her friends lives only 80 metres from the proposed tower site
  • Wants a community consultation on this matter
  • a local regulation in Langley BC requires telecommunication companies to notify all the residents within 500 meters of the towers of proposed towers and it needs at least 80% approval from the neighbourhood.
  • Regulations in Switzerland, Russia and China are far more strict than Canada’s, allowing “a hundred times less radiation.”

Rob Bazar

  • Friend who died of a brain aneurysm in 2008 complained of headaches whenever he was around Wi-fi
  • can’t trust gov’t regulations, they make $billions from the industry, We need independent investigations.
  • Study in Germany states there was a 300% increase in the cancer for people living within 1,300 feet of a cell tower.
  • Dabish teenagers found a dish full of watercress seeds put beside a Wi-fi Router did not sprout, while another dish put at a distance did sprout.

Om Beach (formerly of Twincomm)

  • doesn’t think there is anything special about the TELUS tower other than “most rural cell towers are generally higher power just because they’re trying to cover a larger area.”
  • 5G is a whole suite of technologies that they’re using that brings faster speeds. A number of the frequencies that they are using are much higher and there is some concern that, you know, it’s possible that they cause more harm to the human body than the other lower frequency. “I personally haven’t seen enough evidence to say one way or the other.”
  • the more input the public has the less freedom and ability to move forward quickly, a internet provider or a cell phone provider has. If our local internet provider had to get approval for every repeater station or dish or anything like that Twincomm wouldn’t exist and you’d have no high-speed or non Cortes.
  • if you’re an actual cell phone user being closer to the tower is actually better for the user. If that tower is really far away and maybe behind a bunch of trees and things, your cell phone is having to ramp up its power to its maximum power level. And so you’re actually getting radiated way more from your cell phone than you ever would be from the tower, even if you were probably 80 meters from that tower.

Anastasia Avvakuma, reporter

  • communicated with TELUS via email
  • finds it strange that initially TELUS placed notifications of their intentions in the Bird’s Eye, which serves Quadra Island, rather than in a Cortes Island publication.
  • seems like people from all over Canada have been commenting, but local Cortes voices should count for more.
  • Tla’amin spokesperson Eric Blaney is a fire chief and said the Tla’amin are considering cell towers for safety reasons.
  • One of Cortes Island’s paramedics also wants cell towers for safety reasons.

Manda added that Mansons Landing has some of the best cell reception on Cortes Island because of the tower on TELUS’ property there.

Top photo credit: Looking through the trees to the existing TELUS tower at Mansons Landing – Roy L Hales photo

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