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Municipalities to exert control over communication towers

The insatiable demand for more bandwidth is driving the proliferation of communications antennae towers everwhere — sometimes causing resentment and friction in their neighbourhoods.


The insatiable demand for more bandwidth is driving the proliferation of communications antennae towers everwhere — sometimes causing resentment and friction in their neighbourhoods.

In response to concerns by local communities and neighbourhoods, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has led a movement to give local jurisdictions more control over where the towers are being sited. Together with the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, FCM developed a “Joint Protocol on Antenna Siting” last year.

On February 5, Industry Canada announced that it will introduce a new procedure for any company wishing to erect a tower, with rules that closely echo the FCM/CWTA protocol. The federal government regulates all antenna systems.

The rules require that a telecommunication company must notify and consult with the local municipality or land authority, and if necessary with the public, before it installs any tower — regardless of the height. Previously companies did not have to consult if a tower was less than 15 metres high.

From the time of the company holds the consultations, they have a three year window to do the installation.

Companies must also share towers wherever possible.

Previously the rules for radio antennae were established in 2008 and fell under Industry Canada’s Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Antenna Systems Client Procedure Circular, CPC-2-0-03. It did not require that companies notify the municipality or local residents when constructing towers below 15 metres high.

The new process closes that loophole and much more specific than the former rules. The rules apply to tower structures or rooftop antennae.

While recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the policy recommends that municipalities identify what are their preferred locations, and where they don’t want them. Municipalities are also encouraged to specify their preferred structure type, style, colour, buffering and screening.

The protocol establishes a process for the local officials to work with for the siting process and consultations, and has the municipality issuing a statement of concurrence or non-concurrence.

The siting procedures must take into consideration the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the towers have to conform to Health Canada safety guidelines for exposure to radio frequency fields as set out in Safety Code 6. These rules include the combined effects of all the installations in a given area.

To read an Industry Canada press release, click here.

To read the FCM’s position, click here.


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