Telus’ proposal for installing a new internet and cell tower behind the fire hall on Canim-Hendrix Road in Forest Grove has a mixed response.
The plan involves installing a 45-metre self-support tower structure and a fenced equipment compound at the base to help improve the wireless and cell service in the area.
“The main concern for the opposition was the location of the tower. A lot of them felt it was too close to the school,” said Margo Wagner, Cariboo Regional District (CRD) director of Area H. “I didn’t hear too many other negative concerns.”
Paola Francescutto had a few concerns, calling the proposal an eyesore and is worried that it would depreciate property value. Another issue with her was safety.
“It may not be safe to be in its shadow. There’s all kind of literature out there and my understanding is of course it does or will meet all Canadian Federal Regulations but there are some things. They haven’t done longterm low exposure tests on these type of radio frequencies,” she said. “I’m not totally convinced its dangerous but I’m not 100 per cent sure it’s safe. I think it’s a little close to the school and its a little close to my property.”
Liz Suavé, senior communications manager for Telus, said the company understands a few residents have questions regarding the safety of the wireless infrastructure and are pulling together a report to share with the CRD providing important health information regarding the safety of wireless services from Health Canada under Safety Code 6.
“Safety Code 6 is one of the most strict codes in the world that governs all radio frequency emitted from wireless devices, including things like baby monitors and microwaves. All Telus sites comply with Safety Code 6 and emit a radio frequency that is below safe limits,” said Sauvé.
Wagner is in support of the project and said Telus has a challenge with the location because the proposed tower is not to expand the service, but rather to boost the current service because of the lack of broadband available and limited download speed.
“The constant complaint I get from residents not just in the area I represent but all over the Cariboo as chair is the lack of connectivity, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword because the tower has to go somewhere. Although this is not actually expanding the service it is certainly upgrading the service.”
Wagner said Telus was looking at alternative locations before the meeting, such as the actual Telus building in the community. She felt it wasn’t a good location due to the surrounding houses. Another location was the refuse area.
“But the problem with that is that there is no power at the back, the power at the front is generator run. Plus if it was put there it wouldn’t be able to boost the services in the western end of Forest Grove, so that was not an ideal location,” she said.
Suavé said anytime they look into enhancing wireless coverage in an area, their engineering team completes a thorough investigation to determine where the best location would be. She added there are a number of factors into selecting a location, such as if it provides best maximal coverage, connecting into the core network, accessibility to power and the impact on the aesthetic of the community.
“Wherever, possible, we look to add antennas onto existing infrastructure or buildings, but in this case, there were no nearby buildings that met out engineering requirements which is why we are proposing the tower to build behind the fire hall,” she said. “In terms of looking at other location options, we completed comprehensive engineering and environmental reviews prior to putting this current proposal forward, and are confident this is the best location to improve service where we need it while having the least impact on the landscape.”
Francescutto said she appreciates other residents want better internet connection and better cell service but a better location could be found to alleviate people’s concern.
Suavé said the proposal was in direct response to the increasing demand for enhanced connectivity from Forest Grove residents.
There is also an ABC Communications tower located near the fire hall, so it was considered it would be a good option.
Due to some of the concerns, Telus had a public information meeting at the Forest Grove Community Centre on Feb. 4. Around 40 people showed up at the meeting. Telus is not obliged to do a community meeting for their projects, nor does the CRD have any control over this, according to Wagner.
Residents of Forest Grove can provide comments to Telus about the proposal until Feb. 25 at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-8555-301-1520.