Municipalities Must Now Receive Notification Every Time Cellphone Tower Goes Up

by Istvan Fekete on March 1, 2013

The rising number of citizen complaints over new cellphone towers has forced Canada’s wireless industry to take action. The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association has partnered with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in a new protocol for the replacement of wireless antenna systems to create better cooperation between communities and carriers, the Globe and Mail informs.

The aim of the protocol is give communities more power in the consultation process. The key change is that municipalities now have the power to ensure that all cellular towers and antenna system plans are subject to full public consultation before they are passed, and this includes those less than 15-metres in height.

Until now, in some cases carriers have deliberately built towers 14.9 metres high to avoid community consultations, to take advantage of the loophole in the current federal rules.

“One of the major complaints that we get from our constituents is with regards to not being notified and not having adequate consultation around the need for the tower, the placement, the look of the tower – the list goes on,” said federation president Karen Leibovici, who is also a city councilor in Edmonton.

Neither of the recently partnered groups offer statistics on complaints, but as Karen Leibovici, federation president and city councillor in Edmonton, has said: “We are hearing more and more about it across the country.”

There are other statistics available, though: There are some 13,000 wireless antenna sites across the country, including those located on the roofs of office buildings or on municipal water towers. But the demand for cellphone towers is high: Currently there are more than 27.4 million wireless subscribers, and the number of users going wireless is increasing day by day.

As a response to subscriber demand, carriers are trying to prevent so-called dead zones for voice services (see Telus’ app) and trying to keep pace with skyrocketing data usage on smartphones.

Both the carriers and lobby groups have pointed to recent stats published by Cisco revealing that Canadian mobile traffic, which increasingly includes video, is expected to rise ninefold by 2017. Furthermore, there will be some 66 million mobile connected devices in Canada by that time.

It turns out that the highest demand is in cities. Bernard Lord of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association syas that up to 50% of bandwidth used for email, surfing the Internet and watching video on mobile devices is consumed at home, which means more sites need to be closer to where people live.

The protocol is a move in the right direction, but a non-profit community group, Citizens for Safe Technology, has pointed to a major flaw: Despite being billed as a win for citizen consultation, the process itself has “no new teeth” to regulate the construction of new towers.

Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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