Council Monday approved a pilot project that could eventually see cellphone carriers use municipal-owned street light poles as communication antennas.

Saanich carries out pilot project to improve cell phone coverage

Saanich has chosen an area with poor service as the site of an experiement that could improve telecommunication across the municipality, but could also invite concerns from residents fearful of radio-frequency emissions.

Council Monday approved a pilot project that would allow a telecommunication company to use municipal poles to deliver services to Gordon Point Estates, a subdivision in the Gordon Head neighbourhood facing Haro Strait towards the San Juan Islands.

Topography and the absence of third-party utility poles have shielded the area from cell coverage, said Harley Machielse, director of engineering in a presentation to council.

Poor cell coverage in turn has raised concerns among area residents, according to a letter from Ned Peterson, president of the Gordon Point Estates Residents Association.

“This is especially problematic to those with children or elderly family members, trades people and emergency responders needing to use their cell phones when in this dead zone,” he wrote in 2016. “It is also of concern in emergencies when cell coverage may be our only means of communication.”

Unless residents living within 100 metres of Gordon Head Road and Ferndale Road, they will lack cell phone coverage, leaving some residents of 200 homes with no means to receive or send calls or text messages unless they use a very weak AT&T signal coming from San Juan Island, said Pederson.

Under the pilot project council approved Monday, a Canadian-based carrier would place microcells on municipality-owned street poles to improve coverage in the area.

Machielse said Saanich would charge a nominal fee to recuperate operating costs. Down the line, the pilot could help Saanich decide whether to allow the same solution in other neighbourhoods as part and parcel of a comprehensive communication strategy to help meet rising demand for wireless services.

“The project would allow staff to monitor and report back on a number of aspects,” said Machielse. They include any technical challenges, aesthetic concerns, and neighbourhood reactions, he said.

Such a telecommunication strategy could help Saanich generate new revenues, and control various aspects of antenna systems, such as installations, as well design and siting. It could also help reduce the need for independent monopoles and towers, he added.

Ottawa — not Saanich — exercises approval authority over communication towers, through Innovation, Science and Economic Development, much to the chagrin of residents, as several recent cases have demonstrated. While Saanich’s proposed telecommunication strategy would not change this power balance, Saanich could gain a greater say in areas that had previously frustrated residents.

This said, Machielse acknowledged that any future strategy would depend on input from residents and the cooperation of carriers. The question of whether carriers would be interested in using local municipal infrastructure depends largely on their bottom lines, he said.

“We would be one potential conduit for them to help supply the network,” he said.

Machielse said in his presentation that all telecommunication equipment must comply with national health standards concerning radiofrequency. Health Canada, he said, continues to monitor and analyze scientific studies, including both internal and external reviews of the authoritative literature, as well as their own research.

The public, however, has also heard from residents, who are concerned about the potential proliferation of antennas.

Just Posted

Victoria man says new device helps him better control his diabetes

Ryan Rock thrilled with ease of use, but FreeStyle Libre not for everyone, pharmacist warns

Study recommends jurors receive more financial and psychological support

Federal justice committee calls for 11 policy changes to mitigate juror stress

West Shore resident given unusable money withdrawn from circulation

Bank exchanges Canadian dollars for expired banknotes

VIDEO: Campers leave big mess at rural Port Renfrew campsite

Vehicle parts, garbage, a mattress, lawn chairs, beer cans, and even fecal matter left in the area

Film Review: On Chesil Beach

Saoirse Ronan continues to shine in adaptation Ian McEwan novel about young newlyweds on their wedding day

Research needed on impact of microplastics on B.C. shellfish industry: study

SFU’s department of biological sciences recommends deeper look into shellfish ingesting microbeads

Singh sides with B.C. in hornet’s nest of pipeline politics for the NDP

Singh had called for a more thorough environmental review process on the proposal

Saanich may look at roundabout for intersection

They are common in Europe and one could potentially appear at the… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. woman gets up-close view of Royal wedding

Kelly Samra won a trip back to her home country to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say ‘I do’

Single vehicle hits pole in Saanich on Highway 17

A single vehicle collision caused some minor traffic delays southbound on Highway… Continue reading

30 C in B.C., 30 cm of snow expected for eastern Canada

It might be hot in B.C., but the rest of Canada still dealing with cold

Free mixed media camped offered to youth

Camp hosted on Denman Island

Reading between the lines: the many roles of the Victoria Literacy Connection

Saturday fundraiser to help volunteer-run organization teach people to read, write and more

Most Read