Calgarians living in several northeast neighbourhoods fed up with poor wireless service and dropped calls are gathering signatures in the hopes of finding a solution to the issue.
The concerns have prompted a petition, circulating online and in the community, which calls for the construction of an additional cell tower in the area.
Prabhpal Mann, one of the organizers of the petition, said the issue has been ongoing for years in the communities of Skyview Ranch, Cityscape, Redstone and Cornerstone.
“People have just been dealing with it,” Mann said. “They’re learning to live with it instead of bringing up the concern.”
Mann said there are areas in the communities with spotty cell service that is “manageable,” but there are many “dead spots” where wireless service completely drops off.
“This isn’t a remote community we live in; we have stores and plazas everywhere, and 10 minutes to the closest train station,” he said
“We are in Calgary. So it is super frustrating.”
The concerns have reached the office of area councillor Coun. Raj Dhaliwal, who said he’s also been affected by the poor cell phone service and is helping with the petitioning efforts.
Dhaliwal, who represents Ward 5 on Calgary’s city council, said he’s worried about the lack of cell service in certain communities, especially during an emergency situation.
“This is really concerning to them, this is affecting their lives,” Dhaliwal said. “That call could be the difference between life and death.”
Both Mann and Dhaliwal said the wireless service issues are across all cell phone carriers, and both know people who have continuously switched providers to find some reprieve from the spotty service.
“I had a couple of neighbors that have done the whole cycle through all the cell phone providers,” Mann told Global News. “They’ve done the whole gauntlet… It’s the same across all providers.”
Dhaliwal said the petition would be submitted to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for consideration.
While Dhaliwal and Mann said they aren’t sure what is causing the unreliable service in the area, experts told Global News that wireless infrastructure is lagging behind the city’s rapid growth.
“A lot of the infrastructure that comes out to these areas, the water systems, other things, are municipal,” University of Calgary associate professor Gregory Taylor said. “This one actually falls under federal jurisdiction. So they’re right to start leaning on the companies and the government this way.”
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the CRTC regulate and operate telecommunications across the country in consultation with municipal governments.
According to the Government of Canada, cell phone providers must propose the construction of new cell phone towers to the municipality, and follow the municipality’s consultation and approval process before a tower can be built.
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The federal government’s rules said companies are required to share towers, when possible, instead of building new ones.
“They can put pressure on the wireless service provider. My suspicion is that that service will be provided in the not-too-distant future,” Taylor said. “The companies also want the customer base that’s going to be out there.”
Global News reached out to the big three wireless providers in Canada: Telus, Rogers and Bell.
Bell said its 5G wireless network is deployed across “partner tower infrastructure” in northeast Calgary, and the company is in touch with the partner about “customer feedback for this community.”
Telus thanked Global News for bringing the community’s concerns to their attention and added the company is investing $19 billion through 2027 into new network infrastructure across Alberta
“We continuously monitor our network connectivity in Calgary and strive to provide reliable wireless service to communities throughout the province,” A Telus spokesperson said in a statement to Global News. “We strongly value community feedback and take it into consideration when designing our networks.”
Rogers said it is also investing in expanding wireless service for “growing communities” in Alberta and the company has several builds underway in Calgary, while exploring sites in communities across the city including the northeast.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Government of Alberta told Global News the province is aware there are gaps in cellular coverage around the province, and is “currently gathering information on the issue in order to develop a plan to work with telecoms to address these gaps.”
“When you look at basic amenities 20 years ago versus now, cell phone service is 100 per cent a basic amenity that many people in many communities need to have,” Mann said. “I think throughout the Calgary area, the northeast included, all these these basic amenities need to be accommodated for.”
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