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General News · 30th May 2021
Stand with me to demand meaningful and informed public consultation!
Please write letters by the end of June – see details at the end.

Connected Coast Context
Improved connectivity, both internet and to a lesser degree cell service, has been a priority through the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) for a decade. After getting nowhere with advocacy to senior governments and Telus, we took on the responsibility ourselves to connect the entire coast with sub-sea fibre optic cable through the Connected Coast project - Our fibre will hit the water this summer! One of the key players in rural connectivity is Telus who have been, until now, entirely unresponsive to our advocacy and this community.

The SRD, in partnership with CityWest (a telecommunications company owned by the city of Prince Rupert), has secured millions of dollars in funding through Connected Coast to run subsea fibre optic cable around Vancouver Island and up the coast to Haida Gwaii providing landings in 139 rural communities, including Cortes Island. We then more recently secured more millions to bring fibre right to everyone’s home on Cortes Island this year at no costs to the property owner! More information will be coming very soon on the details of the roll-out this summer/fall season.

Telus Towers
How this relates to Telus towers… We want to make sure that the Connected Coast project, and this last-line fibre to your homes, is in the water and in the ground and completely operational before we contemplate Telus towers. We are not being told by our funders that already promised Cortes money is at stake, but we want to be absolutely sure. In nearby coastal communities, Telus has put up towers and/or bought up small internet service providers, either slightly improving service or at times actually decreasing service, and thereby rendering those communities ‘served’ and ineligible for the last mile fibre funds that we have now secured for Cortes and other communities. Most of Quadra has not been so fortunate, and my colleague Jim Abram there is working very hard to still secure last mile fibre funds for his community. Other communities are in a similar situation and are rightly concerned that these Telus towers will further damage their bid to bring fiber to their communities thereby providing the best internet possible to our citizens.

I have been asking Telus since they reached out to me in December 2020 us to wait on their Cortes cell phone tower proposals until our Connected Coast project is totally secure. I have been assured that they would not proceed with their proposed towers unless both I and the SRD are in support. The Cortes zoning bylaw stipulates that a re-zoning application must be submitted to permit the erection of large telecommunications towers here. Telus has taken the position that telecommunications is a federal jurisdiction and that they don’t need the regional districts approval in this way. We therefore requested a robust community consultation process similar to that of a Regional District public hearing process. Telus said they would work with us to that end. Now, without consulting me or the Regional District, Telus has implemented a joke of a public engagement process, giving the community no information about the intended services that would come with these three (yes they also intend one in Squirrel Cove) towers. Giving the community a month to write in letters, while providing no opportunity for community dialogue is simply unacceptable.

Last week, the Regional District passed a resolution opposing any permission granted by Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada to construct cellular towers on Cortes until the community has been properly consulted and shows support for these cell towers. I know there are very strong opinions ‘for’ and ‘against’ these towers and you deserve the spaciousness to have an informed dialogue about them.

So, I’m asking citizens of this island, irrespective of whether you support cell phone towers or not, to write to Telus by June 28th – sooner the better (with copies to the SRD – see below for contact info) demanding meaningful community engagement. Clearly, if you have a position ‘for’ or ‘against’ or want more information, please also tell them. We will take all your letters directly to the federal cell tower approving agency, Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada, to assist us in our bid for a meaningful process. Telus has made it clear to me and the SRD that these towers will provide 5G service, as it delivers a stronger signal, and intend to provide both internet and phone packages.

I have advised Telus that they will not be receiving my support until I clearly know the wishes of my community through a robust process. I ask that you please join me in asking for meaningful engagement as well as expressing your views.

Please write to Brian Gregg (Telus),
Copy and myself

Noba Anderson

Regional Director, Cortes Island