Chronic complaints of poor cell phone reception is prompting the West Park Community Association to call for a new cell phone tower to be erected in southwest Red Deer.
The association wrote a letter to Red Deer city council as well as several major service providers in the spring, stating current service in the neighbourhood is unacceptable. The many dropped calls in the neighbourhood prevent good communications, even in potentially life-saving situations, wrote the association’s president Stephen Merredew.
While several individual councillors wrote back, the association did not hear from any of the service providers the letter was sent to including Telus, Rogers, Bell and Shaw. “It was a little disappointing,” said Merredew.
He believes hundreds of complaints would need to roll in before these companies decide to invest in expanding infrastructure to improve service. Alberta’s existing telecommunications market has many players, and every West Park neighbour seems to have signed with a different company, added Merredew. “You could get five or six of us together and no one would have the same service provider.”
As a result, he believes it’s easy for telecommunications corporations to “point the finger at the other” and not take ownership of the problem.
Yet, as the association’s letter states: “Reliable cellular coverage has never been more important, or under more strain, than it is now.”
When the association posted its letter on the neighbourhood Facebook page, Merredew said it got an overwhelming response, with dozens of positive comments from West Park neighbours.
His association is calling for a new cellular tower to be erected in West Park — as was done in January in Timberstone to improve reception in east-central Red Deer.
The association wants the City of Red Deer to work with telecommunications providers to identify a location for a new cell tower on city property. Merredew believes one good spot could be a higher elevation space that is now being developed as a park on 58th Avenue, near the junction of 59th Avenue.
Erin Stuart, general manager of development services for the City of Red Deer, said the city has already written letters to the service providers last fall asking for better cell phone reception in Red Deer. While she understands the frustration many Red Deerians must be feeling, she said it’s really up to the providers to build towers.
Stuart added that she did speak to a Telus representative recently who told her that, while no new projects are planned for Red Deer in 2023, the company is talking to a real estate agent and discussing two possible sites for a new tower to be built in the West Park area in 2024.
As to whether other providers will also be able to use this new tower, Stuart said she believes “co-use” happens.
Morgan Shipley, senior communications manager for Bell Media, confirmed on Thursday that their wireless network is deployed across partner tower infrastructure in the West Park area. “We are in touch with the partner about customer feedback for this community.”
Shaw and Rogers representatives could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Telus spokesperson Lena Chen said her company checked thoroughly and could not find a letter from the West Park Community Association.
Noting the new Telus cell tower that has improved service in east-central Red Deer, Chen added, “We understand how important network connectivity is and we’re currently exploring a number of options with the City of Red Deer and other community stakeholders to improve reliable wireless service for residents and businesses in West Park and Eastview. We will update the community when we have more information to share.”
A spokesperson for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission stated in an email: “We recognize the importance of cell coverage and continue working to improve service availability.”
Canadians concerned with network coverage can file complaints to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services at www.ccts-cprst.ca/.