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LETTER – The Telus tower planned will provide Dove Creek residents with subpar wireless internet

Dear editor,

Given the importance of reliable cellular and internet services for citizens in the 21st century, one would question why over 150 Dove Creek residents oppose the approval of Telus’s construction of a 62-metre cell tower on Condensory Road.

Dove Creek residents run businesses, school online, and file taxes, all requiring the same reliable cell and internet service other Canadians have. In fact, the community has tirelessly lobbied government, from the local to federal, for the last two decades to be provided with the equivalent internet services the majority of Canadians receive.

Dove Creek has been told by Telus, since 2005, that laying wireline, for the number of households in the area, is too costly. Yet, as reported in The Record on Oct.26, 2021, 3,400 km of fibre optic is currently being laid by boat around Vancouver Island to service remote communities. So while the federal government delivers on their 2019 promise to bring fibre optic service to all Canadians, Dove Creek remains without. And that is why Dove Creek residents are not jumping for joy at the prospect of a cell tower.

Wireless internet in 2021, is no comparison to wireline network in terms of speed and reliability. The Wi-Fi speeds available from a cell tower will be far inferior to the satellite service now widely available and offer the same speed that most Dove Creek residents make do with using their current wireless data hubs. Wireless data hubs, after all, are only meant for areas too remote for cable internet. Dove Creek is hardly remote.

Today, only about 10 per cent of internet traffic is carried by wireless networks, the other 90 per cent of internet traffic is supported and carried by the wireline network. This is because wireline, with today’s technology, is still far superior. The minimum target speed for all Canadians is 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. But connectivity demands are expected to continue to increase beyond the 50/10 Mbps target. Recognizing this, the 50/10 Mbps target is a minimum and any investment should make every effort to be scalable to higher speeds in the future, including up to speeds of one gigabit per second (Gbps; 1 Gbps is equivalent to 1,000 Mbps). Even when we arrive in a 5G world, and the customer experience will be improved by better small cell wireless access points, we will still ultimately rely on the quality and reliability of the wireline (fibre) network carrying traffic to and from the 5G small cells.

Telecommunications companies know that the two technologies will work in tandem. They are fully aware of the need to ensure that investment in fibre deployment continues to be a priority as they lay the groundwork for 5G wireless networks. The success of the 5G transition will depend on this. Wireless and wired network will never be mutually exclusive. So to offer Dove Creek wireless internet via a cell tower without fibreoptic connectivity is to bring residents back to internet speeds available at the turn of the century. Meanwhile, the rest of the county is connected for the future.

Dove Creek residents have asked Telus the following questions and received no response.

1. The approximate cellular data coverage distance in kilometres from a similar existing Telus radiocommunications tower using the following generations of wireless telephone technology 2.4G, 3G and 4G

2. The approximate wHSIA data coverage distance in km from a similar existing Telus radiocommunications tower

3. The projected minimum and maximum wHSIA download and upload speeds to those within range of a Telus radiocommunications tower similar to the one being proposed.

4. Confirmation that any new proposed towers regardless of location will be servicing users with a 4G LTE wireless network at the minimum.

We are left to assume that the cell tower provides little benefit to Dove Creek. The tower is being constructed to offload the overloaded tower on Veteran’s Memorial Way.

If Telus was committed to servicing Dove Creek, they would have installed wireline internet many years ago. We will continue to oppose the cell tower, proposed in an intensively farmed block, that provides our community with subpar wireless internet when the rest of the country, including remote areas, are being serviced with the optimal speeds of fibre optic. Moreover, we would like to see the CVRD develop a telecommunications policy that will ensure the telecommunications needs of residents are being met while not overriding zoning regulations. With six commercial farms, five of which are livestock, situated in the 0ne-kilometre radius of the cell tower, CVRD approval of the tower will fly in the face of the agriculture goals of the Official Community Plan. Cell tower placement may be the new reality of local government decision-making but so is ensuring food security and not diminishing the current success of thriving commercial agriculture operations in the block radius of the tower.

Andrea Birch,

Dove Creek

Comox ValleyLetter to the Editor