The Cariboo Regional District will consider a proposal by Telus to construct a wireless telecommunications facility on Horse Lake Road.
The 45-metre tower is pitched for an undeveloped, heavily treed lot within the Agricultural Land Reserve, 14 kilometres southeast of 100 Mile House. Telus is seeking the CRD’s support Friday to move ahead with the project, which will “dramatically enhance service to residents in the broader area of Horse Lake,” spokesperson Lena Chen said in an email to the Free Press.
“The demand for enhanced wireless networks within the Cariboo Region, including Horse Lake, has continued to increase in the last year, as more of us are working from home and staying virtually connected to family and friends,” Chen said. “A reliable wireless signal is not only important for residents and local businesses to stay connected on a daily basis, but also because it enhances safety around town as more than 70 per cent of all calls to 911 these days come from a cell phone.”
The proposed installation consists of a triangular galvanized self-support tower structure with 18-panel antennas, a microwave dish and a three-metre lightning rod mounted at the top of the tower. An equipment shelter will be located near the base of the tower enclosed by a chain-link fence, occupying an area of 20 by 20 metres. An access road will also need to be constructed from North Shore Drive.
Chen said Telus is currently in the public consultation phase of the process, which includes continuing to work collaboratively with the local community. She added the cell tower location is on undeveloped land set back from residences.
Maureen LeBourdais, Director of Area F – Horsefly, Likely and 150 Mile House – and chair of the region’s broadband committee, said Tuesday she didn’t know much about the proposal, but noted “there’s a lot of activity with Telus right now so that’s good news.”
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The move comes as the region is in the midst of a regional broadband and cellular survey, struck late last year to determine gaps in internet and cell coverage across the region. LeBourdais agreed there’s an increasing need for services, especially as more people purchase seasonal homes in the Cariboo, or are moving here permanently.
Initial findings from the survey suggest that while there is good connectivity in the Highway 97 corridor, it is lacking in areas off the main roads, especially where there is low population density. Some of the areas lacking in service, she said, are along Highway 20, the Horsefly-Likely Road and Highway 24.
The biggest challenge for the CRD is whether it should try and upgrade those pockets with some service or tackle those with no service at all.
“There are so many seasonal people who come in. A lot of these people are choosing to move up here. Whether that will persist after COVID remains to be seen,” she said. “What we’re finding is people are moving up from populated areas and settling here. They do have expectations of having the infrastructure that they’re used to.”
The results of the survey are expected to come back to the CRD shortly, at which time the board will look at how it wants to tackle the problem. This could include having it done in-house, or establishing community working groups that involve tourism, First Nations and business. LeBourdais also intends to speak to other regional districts to see what they have done for their own strategies.
She noted that while some people are jumping on the Starlink bandwagon, one size doesn’t fit all in the Cariboo, which has geographical challenges such as hills and valleys and plains.
“The tougher decision is how we’re going to implement this.”