It could be several years before a 5G wireless computer and phone network is installed in Nelson, if at all.
That’s according to a Telus representative at Nelson city council’s April 2o meeting.
“And when it does come,” Jeff Cruikshank said, “it is going to come to major urban centres first and then gradually expand.”
He said Telus is currently installing fibre cable to the side of houses in Nelson. He said 71 per cent of residents and 23 per cent of businesses have so far given the company permission to do this. Installation will finished by the end if this year.
Although the new fibre could allow 5G technology in the future, Cruikshank said the current fibre installation is not associated with 5G, and that people are signing up for the fibre connection simply because it will give them faster internet.
Councillor Brittny Anderson told Cruikshank she has been approached by dozens of people who are either adamantly against 5G for radiation health reasons, or are curious and concerned about it.
“Do you believe Canada is taking a precautionary approach with this?” she asked. “I know other jurisdictions have slowed down 5G, especially Switzerland, and a lot of citizens are very concerned because they say this is being done without their consent.”
Cruikshank said Telus does not assess the safety of such technologies but follows Health Canada guidelines.
“This is important to me as a parent of two daughters, teenagers and active cell phone users,” he said. “Telus takes its responsibility seriously to follow Health Canada standards. They have strong standards, some of the strongest in the world, around operating in the limits that experts deem to be safe.”
Proponents of 5G say it would revolutionize the operation of many facets of life including healthcare, public safety, transportation, agriculture, engineering and artificial intelligence. It would pave the way for self-driving cars and smart cities.
Councillor Keith Page, who runs a computer and phone repair business, said the fiber being installed now in Nelson has nothing to do with 5G.
“We are talking about transmitting light at high speeds down glass and cables to homes. It is safe.”
He said it is true that there is a lot of scientific discussion about cell phones and radiation and 5G, “but the marriage of this to fibre is really unfortunate – [fibre] is a good strong infrastructure that is well understood and does not have health implications.”
Anderson told the Star in an interview later that it was clear to her from the presentation that the fibre going in now has nothing to do with 5G.
“That is important to understand in the short term,” she said. “But this does not necessarily address the concerns some people have about the potential environmental and health implications of 5G. There does not appear to be broad consensus and I like to take the precautionary principle. We are starting to understand this as potentially another kind of pollution and I want our communities protected. But I certainly do not understand enough about it at this time.”
Page, in an interview after the meeting, likened the fibre to a highway on which 5G might be one of the travelling vehicles.
“We might have a highway that all sorts of vehicles can be on,” he said. “That [the highway] is the fibre optic and maybe we have vehicles on that highway that may not be safe. But that is not the highway.
“These two things – the highway and the vehicles that are on it – are not as linked as some people are making them.”
Is a planned future uptake of 5G the reason Telus is installing the cable now?
“While our fibre optic network is the backbone of our wireless networks,” Telus representative Liz Sauvé told the Star, “we have not announced plans or a timeline to bring 5G to communities, including Nelson.”
Last year at a Telus announcement event in Nelson about the upcoming cable installation, Telus representative Ben Bajaj said, “This will get Nelson ready for future wireless technologies such as 5G.”
Councillor Rik Logtenberg said Telus has a more immediate reason for installing the cable.
“The purpose of Telus putting this cable in is to get more customers signing up for high bandwidth internet.”
He said the assumption among some members of the public that the city is somehow working with Telus to roll out 5G is not correct.