The Canadian federal government on Wednesday has mandated all wireless companies to conduct the necessary consultations with the Canadian people before erecting new cellphone towers in their communities.
Previous regulations only required telecoms operators to notify the government their intent to erect a tower once it reaches 15 metres or higher. Consultations with the public was not obliged. However, to bypass informing the government, wireless companies constructed towers less than the height limit, resulting to the proliferation of many towers in a single community alone. The ghastly sight eventually irked the residents.
A participant speaks on his mobile phone between sessions during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich
"The placement of new cell towers is often a divisive issue in communities across Canada," James Moore, industry minister, said in a statement. "It is essential that residents be at the center of the process to determine the location of a new tower, and it is up to the wireless industry to ensure that local voices are heard."
But while consultation is mandated, telecom companies don't need to gain the approval of local residents before building a tower.
Once approved by the community, telcos have to erect their proposed towers within three years of the consultations. If not, the community consultation process must be renewed.
"Now there's going to be a timeline on that, because in the past this no limit could mean that companies could wait a very long time and residents could be surprised at the creation of a new tower in their community without their consent," Mr Moore said.
He also noted that the new rules will better inform citizens as well as engage them in the decision-making about where new antennas are going to be constructed in their communities.
"We all know that demand for wireless communications is rising, requiring more antenna systems to be built in or near Canadian communities," Claude Dauphin, Federation of Canadian Municipalities president, said in a statement.
"But we have to make sure that when that happens, it is done in a way that respects the needs of our communities."
In January 2014, the government launched the auction of several blocks of 700 megahertz (MHz) wireless spectrum to telecoms companies operating in Canada.