There may be many reasons, past and present, why Canada has been such a popular place to immigrate, but building out new wireless systems isn’t one of them. Cable operators up north that either are starting to roll out their own systems or are upgrading to next-gen are running up against many of the same roadblocks as their cable and wireless brethren to the south, but they do have a secret weapon if all else fails.
Canada is Rogers territory, and even the big guys have to negotiate to get what they want. The operator has been deploying a lot of fiber as it prepares to offer Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless services, and municipalities are levying higher and higher permitting fees and demanding never-ending public meetings for the privilege of connecting glass to the cellsite.
If Rogers were deploying a wireline system, there might be some recourse, but there are no rulings that call wireless installs “transmission lines,” said Michael Piaskoski, director/Municipal & Industry Relations for Rogers Communications, during a special pre-show Wireless Symposium.
“Munis can charge hefty rents for antennas on their properties,” he added. “This is happening even though wireless and wireline provide the same services to the same subscribers.”
However, munis can’t control where antennas can be erected on private property; a group called Industry Canada has the right to that final say. This does not stop the very people who are buying iPads, tablets and all other manner of wireless gear – many times for their children – from showing up at public hearings to play the “not in my backyard (NIMBY)” card.
“With LTE and four new wireless carriers, there are antennas, towers and all sorts of things going up (on private property),” explained Piaskoski. “People are worried about RF emissions. If they can find a way to say ‘cancer’ and ‘children’ in the same sentence, they can get nationwide coverage.”
“People want all things wireless but they don’t want antennas in their neighborhoods,” Piaskoski told attendees. “They scream about radiation from the towers while they pose for pictures outside smoking cigarettes.”
Even though munis and private citizens have used information gleaned from the Internet to bolster their health-related objections, Health Canada has pointed out there are no direct links between wireless towers and antennas and RF-related illness.
The whole process of getting siting approval should take about 120 days, but it really takes between 1 and 3 years, taking into account all the wrangling with the munis. There are ways to get around this, though.
“If an antenna is less than 15 meters high, operators can avoid all the permission stuff,” Piaskoski said. “That’s why so many of them are 14.9 meters high.”
Rogers also has been known to reduce tower power, to offer financial incentives and to move to a less-contentious site to get a new antenna installed. If munis or local citizens don’t go for any of these concessions, Industry Canada makes the final decision, and Piaskoski admitted it’s 50/50 when it comes to Industry Canada going with the original site and a decision to move.
Showing dueling photos of a cobra and a mongoose, and a chimp hugging a tiger cub, Piaskoski concluded, “We’d rather be seen as the monkey with the kitty.”
— Debra Baker