If approved by Ottawa, this would be the approx. 48th cell phone transmission link in the region's cellular network. Any installation of gear below 15 meters is not subject to public process, so we don't hear often about the growing complexity of the mobile network locally ... and nationwide.
And when citizens do learn about it, they tend to be concerned (as was the case in June, 2012 when Alcatel-Lucent Canada, now merged into Nokia Networks, attempted to plant a 40-meter wireless communications mono tower directly behind the Lazy Gecko in the town centre . I have a supplementary council agenda here dated June 25, 2012 packed with letters of complaint and a petition signed by 613 locals. No, it didn't go ahead, in part on the grounds of Sooke's commitment to town-centre beautification. At about that same time, incidentally, Telus secured a building permit from the CRD for a much less obtrusive 49-meter tower in Otter Point's Sooke Business Park that extended cell phone and wireless coverage west to Kemp Lake Road.)
In the case of tomorrow's agenda, this will be the second attempt by Freedom, Shaw Communication's mobile service provider, to patch up the local network along the rocky portion of Sooke Road in the vicinity of 17 Mile House. They're doing so for their own competitive edge but, as I understand it, Rogers and Telus customers would benefit as well given that Ottawa insists that all service providers play ball together and can tap into each other's infrastructure.
No question this stretch of #14 is known for its service interruptions. Carolyn and I tested our Virgin Mobile phones yesterday afternoon, and we experienced drop-outs near Connie Road. The connection was cut for a matter of seconds and quickly re-established a few hundred meters down the road. Otherwise reception was fine from Sooke to Langford. (Others will have had different, quite likely much more frustrating experiences than us given that we don't commute and are infrequent cell phone users.)
In July 2017, council honoured the wishes of part of the Glinz Lake neighbourhood by voting 4 vs 3 to send a "non-concurrence" recommendation to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED, formerly Industry Canada) regarding the Freedom Mobile application.
ISED staff has the final say in all decisions yet they are also mandated to listen closely to citizen input and local government recommendations. When no community approval is forthcoming, the applicant is encouraged to try, try again, and so Freedom is back for an encore bid. (The company was inspired, in part, by another 4 vs 3 vote, this time for concurrence, re: a Sept. 17, 2017 application for a tower in the Otter Point Rd and Laronde area, where only a few residents raised objections. Last September, Freedom also won council thumb's up for a tower on the Butler Bros. industrial lands behind EMCS; that same night council also approved a Rogers tower at Otter Point & Wadams Way to boost town-centre coverage).
The Glinz Lake 'no' vote two summers ago respected area neighbours who voiced concerns. This same posse is back with a new 25-signature petition representing, it states, "every property surrounding the proposed tower site except for two properties (from) which the occupants are on holidays." Writes one resident: "In short, (the tower) is not wanted here ... I find it very hard to believe that this is the only suitable location for your communication facility." (Edit: As Neil Poirier notes below, not everyone in this area is opposed to the tower.)
As in examples from numerous communities in Canada, the fears are at least threefold:
i) Health concerns about electromagnetic radiation
ii) The tower's impact on real-estate values.
iii) The aesthetics of a steel monolith (aka eyesore)
The regulators do take seriously the public's concerns about the latter two points ~ house equity and landscape aesthetics. Hence Freedom is returning with the proposal for a "monopine" tower, one disguised as I said at the outset to look like a pine tree so as to blend into the surrounding forest. (This in contrast to the narrow smoke stack Telus tower that rises above the drive-thru lane in the Village Foods plaza ~ a utilitarian model in an era when disguising cell towers has become an industrial artform ... as per the examples here, which will either be cool or kitchy depending on your perspective).
Real-estate values? This US article states that potential buyers are more wary of homes near towers and that list prices will suffer. Ottawa's Report on the National Antenna Policy Review (modified Aug. 2012) discussed real-estate impacts. <clip> "In 2001, the assessed values of sixteen residential properties located in Colwood, British Columbia were reduced by BC Assessment by an average of 7.2% (approx. $9,500 each) due to the aesthetic impacts of a broadcasting antenna tower installation that had been recently upgraded."
Health Canada does not regard radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) as a threat to human health. Like the American Cancer Foundation, it figures that the "risk perception" by the public is far worse than the dangers. Other nations adhere more closely than Canada does to the "precautionary principle," which dictates that we humans need to go slow with new technologies given potentially unpredictable, long-term outcomes.
Government of Canada
~ Facts About Cell Phone Towers
~ Licensing procedures ~ Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Antenna Systems
~ Guide to Assist Land-Use Authorities in Developing Antenna System Siting Protocols
~ Canadian Cancer Society: "Current evidence doesn't show any short-term or long-term health effects from the signals produced by cellphone towers. Ongoing research is still looking at the relationship between cancer and radio frequency exposure from all sources."
~ WorkSafe BC 101 on non-ionizing radiation
~ World Health Organization
~ Safety of Cell Phones & Cell Phone Towers (Health Canada)
~ Generation Zapped (screened at Sooke's Awareness Film Night two Decembers ago).
~ Physicians for Safe Technology
~ C4ST (Canadians For Safe Technology)
~ PDF file of case studies from Electromagnetic Health.org
~ CBC Marketplace episode (March 2017( ~ "The Secret Inside Your Phone: Cellphone Safety" (detailing health risks to those who use hand-held phones) + related consumer survey
~ Best Cell Phone Coverage in British Columbia (Nov. 2018)
<clip> "Populated areas of Vancouver Island have good coverage by Bell, Telus and Rogers. Signal is strong from the Greater Victoria Region travelling along the Trans-Canada to Nanaimo, and continuing north through to Campbell River. Coverage goes inland towards Port Alberni, but aside from that the interior coverage on the island is largely absent by Bell and Telus. Rogers has inconsistent spots of service, but service does exist. On the west coast of the island, signal drops about 30 km west of Victoria along Highway 14, but there's coverage for a stretch along the ports around Tofino and Ucluelet. To the north, Rogers has a slightly larger coverage area around Port Hardy and Port McNeill. Bell and Telus both have better coverage on the mainland side of the straight, especially in Port Neville where Rogers has no service."