Sandy Casselman 
Record Staff

BERWICK – The potential for improved cell and internet service was discussed during the township of North Stormont’s recent council meeting.

On Oct. 5, Coun. Steve Densham asked chief administrative officer (CAO) Craig Calder to elaborate on the topic, which was included briefly in his monthly update to council. The report indicated that cellular and internet access may be enhanced, as municipal staff have been in discussions and negotiations with Rogers for the possible erection of two new towers, one in Moose Creek and one in Finch.

“I just wondered whether, first of all timing on those – if we know any timing, and also the reach of those. Fantastic for Finch and Moose Creek but I’m also wondering if there’s anything in the works that would either, through the coverage of those two towers, cover Avonmore, Monkland, Crysler, or whether there’s also plans for additional cell towers there that you’re aware of,” Densham said.

Calder said the discussions are still in the preliminary stages, at this point. He said Rogers has not yet had a site visit but expects that to happen before the end of the year. He said they’re looking at placing one tower at the pump station in Moose Creek, as it’s strategically located, while the other will be on private land in Finch.

“These two towers are supposed to, and they’ve confirmed this to me in emails, that it will not just improve cell service, it will improve internet service,” Calder said. “So, of course, I was very supportive and tried to remove any obstacles to push the project forward.”

Densham asked if it would be possible to have Rogers come to council at some point to ensure politicians understand what’s being offered. Calder said he was certain Rogers would be on board with doing so once things progress past initial talks.

Deputy Mayor François Landry asked about the connection speed, referring to the province’s stated intent of providing internet access at 50-megabytes per second throughout Eastern Ontario. Calder said the new towers are simply a starting point for now.

“This is a band-aid solution at this point. I think everybody around the table is aware of EORN’S project that hasn’t gained traction, but certainly the vision for both the federal and the provincial governments is to provide that minimum standard service for all Canadians,” Calder said. “But you’re correct. This would be a band-aid solution for the short-term. But I’m just trying to look at the positive and trying to help the community, who obviously have gaps in their cell service and internet service, for any improvement.”

EORN – the Eastern Ontario Regional Network – is a non-profit organization focused on improving rural connectivity.

Created by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, EORN’s intent is to help create innovative public-private partnerships to address the digital divide.

Councillor Roxane Villeneuve then asked if township staff had approached any other internet service providers and whether they would be seeking out at least two more companies, so as not to violate North Stormont’s procurement policy.

“We’re not purchasing the towers,” Calder said. “For the sake of clarity, the cost incurred for the erection of these towers is totally at the cost of Rogers. It doesn’t cost the township any money. We’re actually going to be compensated on, just like we would any other tower, on our properties.”

Rogers approached the township, Calder said, as it’s the company with the contract for the cell project. While it wasn’t the municipality that sought out Rogers, Calder did say North Stormont had been conversing with a smaller company prior to this but it didn’t materialize past that point.

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