A Cariboo Regional District director is pressing Telus to improve cell coverage in Forest Grove following concerns that a new cell tower has done little to boost connectivity in the area.
Margo Wagner, CRD chair and director for Canim Lake-Forest Grove, said she reached out to Telus after complaints about the lack of coverage in the area despite the installation of the 45-metre tower earlier this year. She had initially considered a petition to prove to Telus that there is a good business case for expanding coverage in the area.
However, Telus suggested she first submit mapping and physical address numbers in the more concentrated areas that need service and they will investigate. The mapping is being done now by the CRD and Wagner hopes to send it to Telus within the next week.
“About eight people have contacted me who live directly in Forest Grove and either had better cell coverage before the tower went up or it hasn’t improved with the tower so they’re still on one or two bars,” she said. “These are people who live right within the confines of Forest Grove right in the village itself.”
In her Area H newsletter, Wagner said Telus has told there has been an improvement of between four and six kilometres of additional coverage along that stretch of highway west of Forest Grove, and there was no expectation there would be any coverage in the Ruth Lake area – two statements she disagrees with.
“I was in attendance at both public information sessions, and that was not what I was hearing from the Telus representatives there or the land agents acquiring the most suitable site,” she wrote.
It was her understanding, she said, that the tower was supposed to improve service from Forest Grove to Highway 97. She said it’s frustrating because this tower is higher than the one originally proposed by the fire hall, and the road to the highway is relatively flat except for one hill.
Other CRD-approved towers in Kersley and Dragon Lake near Quesnel, she noted, are only 30 metres tall and they have much better coverage.
Liz Sauvé, Telus manager of public relations, said this tower provides 4G LTE coverage to the area and was installed to bring wireless connectivity to some residents in the area for the first time, and enhance the safety of travel throughout the area by enabling residents to call for help in the event of a roadside emergency. She said there could be many factors at play and confirmed it would be easier to look at individual addresses to pinpoint any issues.
She noted a resident who lives five kilometres from the tower, for instance, did not have any coverage because he lived outside Forest Grove and the intended coverage range.
Wagner noted in her newsletter that she has also informed Telus that fibre optic had been laid in the area years ago that has never been accessed, but they had no knowledge of it. She plans to include those details with the mapping information.
“They have assured me that they will look at the information and if it is viable, will develop a business plan to hopefully support it,” she wrote.