| Jun 11, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - June 11, 2009 Line of sight, yes, but do we have to see itBy Jeff Green

At a public meeting on June 8 concerning the placement of five towers that are set for construction by Barrett Xplore to deliver fixed wireless internet service in parts of Central Frontenac, there was only one major issue raised: the location of the proposed tower in Arden.

Among the people attending the meeting there were a number, including Big Clear Lake Association President Art Dunham, who expressed serious concern over the proposal to put the Arden tower close to the western shore of Big Clear Lake.

“You propose to throw a tower in the Arden sunset,” said one lakefront property owner to Barrett's representative Don Ticknor.

“When the proposed tower locations were first made public, Barrett was going to build a 150 ft. tower in Arden,” Ticknor explained, “but the proposal has now been altered. The tower in Arden is now proposed for 100 feet, which means it can avoid having a 24-hour light on top of it.”

A 150 foot tower in the Mountain Grove area has been added to the original four-tower proposal, because plans to use an existing CTV tower have fallen though. The CTV tower is aging and cannot support the Barrett equipment.

Barrett Xplore made the successful response to a request for proposal (RFP) prepared on behalf of Frontenac County by the consulting firm Actionable Intelligence.

The RFP was designed to make use of $700,000 in funding dollars from the Ontario Ministry of Food, Rural and Agricultural Affairs (OMAFRA) in order to fill gaps in high speed Internet Service in South and Central Frontenac and the Frontenac Islands. Barrett will be spending $1.4 million of their own funds on the $2.1 million project.

They propose to construct four towers in South Frontenac, one on Wolfe Island, and five in Central Frontenac. Service will be provided within the “line of sight” range of the towers.

“While the signal can travel through leaves and some tree cover,” said Ticknor, “it cannot penetrate rock or heavy forest cover. We are certainly constrained in areas like Central Frontenac.”

Where available, the fixed wireless service will be priced at $45 per month, and installation fees will vary depending upon the length of service contract that consumers choose.

Ticknor, and some other Barrett representatives who were with him, explained that the company has had trouble finding suitable locations in the Arden area for a tower.

According to Maureen O'Higgins from Actionable Intelligence, an advantageous location on a ridge near Highway 7 looked promising, and could possibly have provided service towards Kennebec Lake to the north, as well as Big Clear Lake, the village of Arden, and towards Elm Tree to the west, but the land was not available.

Another constraint that the company faces is the need for hydro. “The cost of bringing hydro to more remote locations is something we cannot afford within the constraints of this project,” said Ticknor. “We looked for other sites in Arden and this is the one that will bring service to the village, the lake, and Ardendale [the territory to the west of the village towards Elm Tree].”

Terry Kennedy, of the Kennebec Lake Association, wondered how it was that Barrett was providing service to only a few of the residents of Kennebec Lake.

“Perhaps we could get to Kennebec in the future,” said Ticknor, “but not this time around.”

While there were a number of people, some angrier than others, who spoke against the Big Clear Lake tower location, Art Dunham summed up the position of the Big Clear Lake residents when he delivered a prepared statement.

“We did an online survey,” he said, “and 36 people responded. There was a lot of support for high speed, but overwhelming opposition to the tower location. Surely we could have a vote on the location of the tower.”

It turns out that the only regulatory agency that needs to approve the location of communication towers is Industry Canada. Township approval is not required.

Nonetheless the township’s planning consultant, Glenn Tunnock, had expressed concerns about the proposed towers being located too close to residences. However, Tunnock’s associate Dave Sappleton said the concerns have now been dealt with by Barrett and they have no further objections.

It is unclear where the matter goes from here.

Although Dunham said that “Barrett should go back to the drawing board and find an alternate location,” company officials seemed to indicate there were no ready alternatives.

“A win-win situation would be to get service and not have towers close to our lakes,” said Councilor Gary Smith.

Although they are not obligated to consult further, Maureen O'Higgins said, “The company’s goal is to meet its customers’ needs.”

(Attempts on Tuesday to reach Don Ticknor to clarify Barrett's future plans were unsuccessful because he was away from his office in Markham. We will endeavour to get that perspective for a future edition.) 

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