Five communication towers
Three of these are on Cortes Island, where they already have land rights on two sites. TELUS owns property in Mansons Landing and has reached an agreement with a property owner in Squirrel Cove. They are also looking for a Whaletown resident who is willing to host a tower on their land.
TELUS is looking for properties in Heriot Bay and Drew Harbour on Quadra Island, but has not yet identified any candidates.
Discovery Island Regional Director Jim Abram told two TELUS representatives at the January 13th Strathcona Regional District Board meeting, “You have mentioned a number of times, on the flyer with the maps, that you haven’t picked a spot, but I am receiving calls from very elderly people on Quadra Island that they are receiving calls from your consultants offering them 30 year contracts at $1,000 a month to put a tower up on their properties. So you have obviously picked some sites, based on their geographic location, how far they reach etc. You have actually gone as far as going to these people and offering them large sums of money.”
He chided TELUS for ‘jumping the gun,’ by approaching property owners before consulting with the SRD.
Abram also said, “I’ve worked with TELUS since 1990, progressing our connectivity whether it be broadband, wireless or cell towers. Our service is still terrible, as they probably know.”
Brian Gregg of SitePath Consulting Ltd was part of the TELUS delegation.
“TELUS does not have dependable wireless service on Quadra and Cortes Islands, including the surrounding waterways. This not only poses an inconvenience, for people to remain connected, but also a public safety issue given that the majority of calls to emergency service responders are now placed through wireless devices, such as cell phones,” he said.
A TELUS spokesperson emailed Cortes Currents that, “more than 70% of phone calls to 911 these days come from a cell phone.”
Gregg continued, “For a number of years, we’ve been receiving a lot of customer complaints from community members, regarding a lack of service. With increased remote working during COVID 19 pandemic, those complaints have been escalating in your area and, frankly, across the country.”
If this project goes forward, it is expected to would dramatically increase cellular service throughout the area which means residents and visitors could use their wireless devices (such as cell phones and tablets) to make phone calls, send emails and text messages, and use the Internet.
Will the sites be 5G?
Doug Anastos, Senior Program Manager of TELUS, explained, “Right now we are deploying 4G LTE service … It is a transitionary period right now. our network will transition over to 5G in the next several years. In a rural area like this, it is going to look a lot like 4G.”
Abram pointed out that there is a lot of public opposition to 5G.
Anastos conceded, “We are finding there are concerns with 5G technology. Power output is something that comes up; the frequency is another thing.”
In a recent article. published in Scientific American, Joel M Moskowitz wrote there is no research on the health effects of 5G, but “considerable evidence about the harmful effects of 2G and 3G. Little is known of the effects of exposure to 4G, a 10-year-old technology, because governments have been remiss in funding this research … We should support the recommendations of the 250 scientists and medical doctors who signed the 5G Appeal that calls for an immediate moratorium on the deployment of 5G and demand that our government fund the research needed to adopt biologically based exposure limits that protect our health and safety.”
Anastos said, “At the end of the day, 5G is not inherently unsafe as a technology.”
He explained that even at the base of cell towers, TELUS found the radiation from 4G or 5G to be “hundreds or even thousands of times below the safety standards.”
To which Abram responded, “It is the people a mile away from the tower; where the signal is actually hitting the ground … that is where the penetration issue comes in. 5G has been talked about with remote automobiles and will probably be talked about with remote boats. Are we there yet? I don’t think so.”
TELUS is ready to start the public announcement process in Squirrel Cove and Mansons Landing, on Cortes Island:
- Information packages would be mailed to all property owners and occupants within a radius of three times the height of each proposed tower.
- TELUS would post a notice in The Discovery Islander.
Gregg said, “The final step is that all of this has to come back to the board for a decision. So us presenting to you today is obviously a very early on preliminary step. At the end of our consultation process, the board would have every opportunity to consider all the input we have received and make a decision on whether to grant land use …”
Rezoning the land
Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson pointed out that, on Cortes, the land that these towers stand on would need to be rezoned.
SRD Chief Administrative Officer David Leitch confirmed that the sites on both islands would need to be rezoned.
Doug Anastos, “TELUS is federally regulated. Rezoning is not something that we seek or require from a Federal regulation perspective, but we understands there are different requirements at play. This is something we can talk to staff about.”
To which Anderson responded, “I have not been made aware, by staff, that this is an optional process. I would certainly like to dig into that. Is there a rezoning requirement for Quadra, or other areas as well, or is Cortes exclusive that way.”
Public process needed
Abram pointed out, “That means you are going to have to go through a public process to rezone the property, as to whether the land use will be allowed … I want to be really clear on this, Quadra Island has not been an easy sell in the past. We went through this with Camtel Rogers, with a 350 foot tower. A couple of years ago I got TELUS on it, which they were unable to do prior to that. They have done it and service is still absolutely abominable. So we need the service, but we also need public approval for that service. Site towers are always a contentious issue in the islands.”
A number of Cortes residents voiced their opposition to communications towers when the SRD gave an update on the Connected Coast project, on November 5, 2019.
Anderson asked the TELUS delegation, “Are you intending on applying for rezoning, given that you have been advised by our planning staff and CAO that this is required?”
Anastos replied, “It is something we will have to talk to further with staff. I have to say it is highly unusual for these types of areas to have a rezoning requirement. Also, understanding that the islands are very sensitive … At the end of the day, what we are seeking is the support of the board. If we do not have the support of the board, we will not be proceeding.”
Why not Area D?
Though it is not known how welcome the proposed towers would be on Cortes or Quadra, Regional Director Brenda Leigh made it clear she would like them in Area D.
“I represent the area of Oyster River to the south end of Campbell River, and out towards Gold River. I have 5,000 people in my area. Half of my area is served by either TELUS or Shaw. We have high speed cable to the northern half of my area, but the southern half – which includes the Oyster River settlement area of 650 homes; York Road, which has 350 homes – has very poor, inadequate service. They have been phoning and complaining to me, steadily. I have an Advisory Commission which I can’t even have virtual meetings with because some of them live down York Road or Oyster River and they cannot connect reliably. So, since we already have fibre optic cable going down the island highway, I do not know why it would be so difficult for TELUS or Shaw, or someone, to extending the service to my community. Why are you looking at all the outer islands, that have half my population, first – instead of Area D.”
Anastos replied, “Just to be clear, Bryan and I are representing the wireless side of TELUS’ organization. We can certainly connect with the parts of TELUS that are responsible for our fibre network and take back these requests.”
Links of Interest
- (SRD) TELUS’ Planned WirelessService Improvements in the Discovery Islands
- (Wilson Amplifiers) What is 4G, LTE, 5G and how are they different?
- (The Guardian) 5G confirmed safe by radiation watchdog
- (Scientific American) We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe
- The 5G Appeal
- (TELUS) Coverage map
- (Cortes Currents) articles about Connected Coast
Top photo credit: Looking through the trees to the existing TELUS tower at Mansons Landing – Roy L Hales photo
This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative.