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Wi-Fi tower raises questions about consultation

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Engineer Jay Dearhouse and his partner Parker Jacobs wanted to improve Internet service in Kahnawake, and started a business about a year-and-a-half ago that would help solve the problem.

“My partner and I decided we were fed up with slow Internet and being unable to gain,” said Dearhouse, who used to work as an engineer for General Electric.

The partners launched Semper WiFi, and recently erected a 24.4-metre tower on Barry Stacey’s property in the Twin Hills area at the company’s main office, which is also where Dearhouse lives. The tower will provide high-speed Internet to the main village area, according to the company.

Since erecting the tower, a letter was sent to the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake’s telecom group complaining there was inadequate consultation before the tower was installed.

Dearhouse told The Eastern Door he followed the consultation protocol, and Mohawk Council chief Carl Horn confirmed the “company did follow the proper procedures.”

“As part of the public consultation process, we went door-to-door and gave everybody a package,” said Dearhouse.

Everyone who received the package signed to confirm that they got it, and Dearhouse said there was one resident who did voice a concern about health. Dearhouse met with the resident and explained that the tower is perfectly safe, and the resident was satisfied with his explanation.

“We showed them that we broadcast about 100 times less power than the radio station does,” said Dearhouse. “I used to be a safety officer and an engineer and I put this in my backyard. I live here and I’m fine with it. Our cellphone puts out more power in our pocket than this will.”

The complaint letter, written by Alex McComber who lives near the tower, reads, “My issue is with the poor/improper communication from the communications company owners with the residents and non-support from the MCK communications committee.”

McComber and his wife signed the info package Semper WiFi staff provided, but thought there would be follow-up consultations. He admitted in the letter that he didn’t read the contents before signing, and lost the papers.

“The whole process is replicated capitalist business-government processes of making minimal contact with people, having them sign papers calling it consultation then move forward,” the letter reads. “Token process is not acceptable in 2016!”

The letter concludes requesting work stoppage until further consultation is held.

The telecommunications-antenna system siting protocol passed unanimously at a Mohawk council meeting March 29 of this year.

According to a council communiqué, “in an effort to limit the number of antennas and prevent the installation of antennas on private land, the Antenna Siting System Protocol will ensure that telecommunications companies use existing buildings, structure and antennas before installing a new antenna,” it reads. “It will also ensure the towers are built according to industry standards and meet all local safety standards.”

Telecommunications working group technician Tom Scott was also in attendance at the meeting.

Dearhouse maintains that he and his partner followed the protocol for launching his business, and ensured all products related to Semper WiFi such as the tower were built with care and consideration.

“We saw some complaints, but we went through the protocol, which is the same protocol as the industry Canada one,” said Dearhouse. “We did our due diligence. Everything we built here is licensed.”

Dearhouse forwarded all complaints after the tower was built to the telecom group at council.

“Consultation was done with the residents in the area prior to the towers being put up with minimal resistance,” said Horn. “Once they were physically put up is when some of the complaints came in.”

The network is currently up and running, but Dearhouse said the tower would not broadcast for another week or two.

There are a total of six cellular towers operating in Kahnawake (see sidebar) in addition to seven WiFi stations, some of which are not in operation. Two more are proposed, but not yet erected.

Cell and Wi-Fi locations in Kahnawake

Cellular Towers (operators)

MCK main office (Bell)
Tewatohnhi’saktha Office Complex (Rogers)
Highway 132 near KSS (Bell and Telus)
Near Sports Complex (Bell and Telus)
Behind Mohawk Super Bingo (Rogers)
End of Route 207 (Rogers, Bell, Telus, Videotron)

Wi-Fi locations

First Nations Wireless
Locations in operation
Catholic Church Steeple (in compliance with MCK antenna citing protocol)
KSCS Complex (in compliance)
Route 207 across from 207 Longhouse (not currently in compliance)
Rainbow Tobacco office (not currently in compliance)

Proposed locations (not in operation)

PK station (owned by PKs, in compliance)
Robbie Dickson private property (tower not built, not currently in compliance)
Ruth Deer private property (tower not built, not currently in compliance)

Semper WiFi

Tewatohnhi’saktha main office (tower built, not in operation, in compliance)
PK station (tower built, not in operation, in compliance)
Barry Stacey private property, village area (tower built, not in operation, in compliance)

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