Penticton residents should soon be able to purchase cellphone services from a fourth provider that offers significantly lower monthly rates than the “big three” Canadian providers — Rogers, Bell and Telus.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of city council, a motion was approved to direct staff to pen a letter of concurrence stating that Freedom Mobile has satisfactorily completed the public consultation process as required by the federal government.
Council also supported a motion that staff be directed to prepare a policy and procedure for reviewing future telecommunication tower requests.
Freedom Mobile, previously known as Wind Mobile, will provide a viable alternative for cellphone customers looking for lower monthly service packages, said City of Penticton planner Blake Laven.
Cypress Land Services, acting as agent for Freedom Mobile, are proposing to install an 18-metre (60-foot) cellphone tower at 1953 Dartmouth Rd., in Penticton’s industrial area.
Telecommunication tower approval remains a federal matter beyond the jurisdiction of municipal government, but many municipalities are forming policies and procedures to ensure these applications can be dealt with in a timely and efficient manner, said Laven.
Local residents, business owners and property owners who live within a radius of three times the tower height were consulted and no one complained about the tower, said Laven.
Once council supports the creation of a policy dealing with telecommunication tower requests, an application fee will be established to offset the costs of processing requests.
Because the federal government has jurisdiction over cellphone towers, it has the ability to “supercede” concerns by municipal councils, Laven said.
“Luckily for us, the federal government . . . wants to hear from local government in regard to this,” he said. “We don’t have a local process in place to deal with this . . . so we are asking council to give us direction.”
The policy on telecommunication tower requests will include information gathered from what other communities in the region are doing, federal rules and regulations and some public consultation.
“We would bring that information back before council for adoption,” he said. “Any future applications that come before us would follow this process.”
Chad Marlatt from Cypress Land Services said there are a lot of options for municipalities to consider when it comes to installing cellphone towers and the company is always willing to work with municipal leaders to determine which course of action works best.
Freedom Mobile was formed about a decade ago when the federal government wanted to increase competition in the cellphone services field, he said.
“The goal was basically driving down cellphone prices and cellphone bills,” he said.
Freedom Mobile now has networks installed among most major cities in Canada and is “rapidly expanding into the tier two cities across provinces.”
Freedom Mobile hopes to provide cellphone coverage to customers from Penticton to Vernon in the coming months, he said.
“They are planning about 50 cellphone sites to service that market,” he said.
Freedom Mobile was purchased two years ago by Shaw Communications, which will allow them to bundle internet and cable services in various markets, he said.
Most cellphone towers are located on industrial lands, as will be the case with this Penticton tower, Marlatt said.
All of the cellphone installations that take place have to meet federal safety guidelines.