A telecom giant has encountered some resistance from the Strathcona Regional District about proposed cell towers for Quadra and Cortes islands.
The disagreement between Telus and the regional district has resulted in the board writing letters to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) saying they would not approve any applications for new towers, citing “the limited consultation process being conducted by Telus.”
“Telus is proposing cell towers on Quadra (and Cortes) island(s) and refusing to really properly engage with the community consultation,” said chief administrative officer David Leitch in the June 16 SRD board meeting.
ISED told the SRD that the Telus application could not go forward without a letter of concurrence from the board.
“The community has to provide concurrence with the siting of a cell tower, so we want to pose our opposition to the cell towers unless proper consultation is conducted in the area,” Leitch said.
The Cortes application was dealt with in an earlier meeting, with the board voting to send a letter to ISED with the same message, but for Cortes Island.
For their consultation, Telus put a notice in The Birds Eye publication, a weekly newsletter published on Quadra Island on June 9 and 16, with contact information provided for comment. The Telus proposal includes a one-page questionnaire for people to submit by July 19. The three questions are: “Are you a cellular phone or wireless user? Do you feel this is an appropriate location for the proposed facility? Are you satisfied with the appearance / design of the proposed facility?” People also have a space for additional comments.
This is the latest episode in a saga between Telus and the SRD.
Telus proposed building towers on both islands back in January, with the goal of providing improved cell service for people and reducing service gaps. However, the Regional District already had its own plan to bring telecoms infrastructure to the island with the Connected Coast project.
However, an issue arose around funding. ISED provides funding for last mile connections with the goal of increasing connectivity speeds to a baseline of 50 mbps download and 10 mbps upload. Telus says that their services provide the proper speeds for the island, but Quadra Island director Jim Abram says different.
“Their criteria says that they cannot fund over top of existing services,” read a Facebook post from Quadra Island director Jim Abram in January. “So if Internet service in the range of 50mb download and 10mb upload (50/10) already exists at the home it invalidates our application for the funding.”
“Telus came in and told ISED that they already had coverage in all these areas and mapped it all out, but most of it was over the top of where we were going to be covered,” Abram said. “That then eliminated us from receiving funding from the feds and the province.”
The Connected Coast project is “what we are calling a public service, not a business, not a multi-national. It’s a public service,” Abram said. “Everything that comes in goes back to the company, which keeps the cost down.”
“We’re fighting… the David and Goliath fight with the multi nationals to get our system in place and signed up to it at the same time that Telus is lobbying the government to tell them that they’re already providing the service, which they aren’t,” he added.