Wireless pole idea unplugged by City – for now

Generation X author meets Vancouver mayor in Paris to plug poles named after us

Greetings, City Caucus readers. We've taken a few days off to enjoy the long weekend, and have a few stories in the queue beginning this item.

As many readers will know, we always cast a wary eye on taxpayer-funded international trips by politicians. This is not to say they should not happen – they can have strategic and economic benefits. In her upbeat account of a recent trip to Germany, Frances Bula tries to point out that Gregor Robertson had his travel costs to Europe paid for by a group called the New Cities Foundation. John Rossant, Executive Chairman of Publicis Group and founder of the New Cities Foundation, met with Gregor Robertson and Mike Magee in New York City during a much-referenced April 2010 visit.

Interviewed by Bula on the matter of the trip being sponsored by a third party, my colleague Daniel Fontaine stated, "if mayors are representing their city at a worthwhile event, the city should pay so as to avoid any suggestion of conflict or taking favours".

Also a guest of the New Cities Foundation event in Paris was west coast author and artist Douglas Coupland. Coupland was in attendance to promote his idea of a wireless utility pole called a "V-Pole". According to the press release the "V" stands for Vancouver. The famously media-shy Coupland usually only speaks through email conversations or prepared news statements, making it challenging to drill down for details on this project. What's clear from the series of photos posted on the V-Pole site is that the Mayor of Vancouver endorses the "Vancouver pole". His mug is carefully photoshopped into at least two of the promotional stills, and his staff person Lara Honrado is even provided a role as a member of the pedestrian public.

Considering the controversy all British Columbia cities and municipalities are facing around BC Hydro's Smart Meters, it's surprising that the Generation X author can make a statement like this:

“The wireless data game has changed,” said Coupland. “Data transmission is no longer something scary you don’t want in your back yard. Now you want it directly in front of your house.”

This might be so for many folks, but there do not seem to be any shortage of citizens who fear additional wi-fi bandwidth coming near their homes. In fact, Vancouver city council just approved a motion to support citizens who want to opt-out of the Smart Meters program.

Given the fact the Mayor of Vancouver gave the red carpet treatment to Coupland's Vancouver Pole, including flying all the way to Paris to announce it, you'd guess that the project was a fait accompli. It's only a matter of time before the colour-coded white beacons will start popping up on our streets.

Well, apparently not. According to a report by Vancouver Courier reporter Andrew Fleming, the City is distancing themselves from the Coupland project:

City communications director Wendy Stewart said plans to install V-Poles in Vancouver aren’t on the radar.

“It is certainly an infrastructure that we have to look forward to in the city because it is an emerging need but, in terms of this very specific technology, it is just Douglas Coupland,” said Stewart. “The city has a consultation that is currently taking place with our park board officials, and they are working with Telus to look at how we might integrate electric vehicle charging and cellphone antennas. That is the process that is underway. He is saying ‘Hey look, we should look at how to do this,’ which is a little bit different in what we have currently on the table, but he’s come forward with a concept that is very interesting.”

It's just Doug Coupland, and of course, the Mayor of Vancouver. Is it only a matter of time that the V-Pole will be on a street near you?

– post by Mike

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  • Steven Forth

    So what do you think about the design concept?

  • Andrew Browne

    Really great idea. It looks like someone brought in an outside artist to have a stab at the design concepts. Not a bad idea given some of the emerging sculptural treatments being applied to cell towers. (See: http://www.metropolismag.com/story/20080116/sculptural-appeal ). This is definitely a good example of the possibilities of infrastructure. It need not be utilitarian and ugly, it can also enrich the visual landscape instead of clutter it.

    One caveat: In dense urban areas cell antennae are placed on building roofs and flush mounted to facades. While this can be done well or poorly, these days they’re usually masked pretty well (notwithstanding some horrendous examples, installed years ago, that persist). So we would be replacing essentially invisible building-mount antennae with more visible poles in the streetscape. I’m not sure this is a bargain many would want? Hard to say.

    While these poles would be fantastic in areas with service problems that are not as dense as downtown (i.e. residential areas with some challenging topography), unfortunately the low height would serve to limit effective service area. If the height stays low, the number of poles may have to increase.

    I guess what I’m getting at is the design is very, very cool but it’s a solution for areas that perhaps have the least issues with cell service at present.

  • Thought of The Day

    “I wonder, would the V-poles be good for V-Pole Dancing?”

    Pole to V-Pole aka Utility to F-Utility.

    Douglas Coupland … lives in his own fantasy. But that’s OK as he is a writer/ thinker. He’s allowed.
    Ideas, a dozen a dime. Crazy ideas, a million a dime!
    The problem though, starts when the Mayor wants to be part of that fantasy. As he is not a fictional character. Or is he?

    From the moment he was music DJ-ing to opposing Oil Tankers to liking V-poles he was nothing but a hipster.

    You could sell him glass marbles and beer tops, he would probably implore you let him paint your fence if the graffiti craze would catch up with him.
    Let him enjoy playing with his toys.

    “What’s that, Gregor? Nah, that’s a Real Cat! The Robo-Cat, you’ve received for Christmas, that one, we blew that one up to pieces. Remember?”

    See, what I mean?

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • Birdy

    Shaw’s EXO wifi coverage in Vancouver is growing very fast. It’s totally free if you are already a Shaw customer. http://www.shaw.ca/wifi/

    This fancy shiny iPole provides nothing more than wifi. We don’t need cell phone towers attached to our houses. Cell phones already work. Leave them alone. Wireless vehicle charging? Come on. Total nonsense.

    This is a case of “look Mom, I duct taped a wifi router to a hockey stick, painted a rainbow on it and stuck it in the front yard!”

    The government’s “help” is not needed in this industry. Maybe they could finally build that homeless shelter for chickens instead of trying to take over/ruin what Shaw is building?

    • LMAO Birdy!

      But that’s what these Bozos are doing. They are reinventing the wheel and selling it back to me and you as a “wheely”!
      Good for Mike for bringing this up.
      The people of Vancouver need to know of this kind of idiocies, that the New City Summit in Paris was all about!
      And the Mayor sits on the Board of Trustees LOL!
      What are they going to think of next… putting a TAX on air?
      Oh, wait… 🙂

    • Steven Forth

      I wonder Birdy, did you bother to read the actual site http://v-pole.com/ and understand the design challenge? The challenge: given the proliferating number of wireless services and interfaces, can we modularize the infrastructure and support a greater variety of services and technologies with less infrastructure?

    • Birdy

      Steven, I had a quick look, but no, I didn’t read it all, because it appears to be an empty jumble of trendy buzz terms.

      What exactly are these alleged services, interfaces and technologies?

      If people actually wanted these mystery services, the market would be responding. People actually want city-wide wifi coverage, so we see Shaw responding. On the other hand, no one cares about “wireless vehicle charging”. Absolutely no one. This is verifiable by noticing that companies are not building them.

      Companies don’t purposely build things that people don’t want. The government has a monopoly on that game.

      I guess there are some services that the government might want to build into utility poles:

      “Talking CCTV cameras that tell off people dropping litter or committing anti-social behaviour are to be extended to 20 areas across England.”

      “Talking CCTV Camera Orders Residents To Leave Their Own Property”

      • Steven Forth

        Ah, so if it doesn’t already exist it won’t exist. Sounds like a bizarre take on EMT to me. Whenever possible one designs infrastructures to be open and modular with well defined APIs. That is the core of Doug’s idea, not the visuals.

  • Steven Forth

    People interested in modularity, design, technology and theevolution of industrial infrastructure might enjoy the wonderful book Design Rules. http://www.amazon.com/Design-Rules-Vol-Power-Modularity/dp/0262024667/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337737463&sr=8-1

  • politics101

    Is it only me but it appears in the both photos that there isn’t any helmet for the bike riding mayor – one would think he would want to ensure that all his photo ops are politically correct and either be wearing one or have one hanging from the handlebars which isn’t the case in either photos.

  • @Birdy:

    And if you’re not a Shaw customer, or come from out of town?

    Anybody can shit all over an idea at the formative stages. For instance, I find your suggestion that we should rely on a single private company for public access to public airwaves to be short on consideration for the long term ramifications of such a decision. But no doubt you will be refining it as you go along?

    • Birdy

      Well it’s a trial at the moment, but when it’s finished I’d assume that if you’re not a Shaw customer, you’ll be able to pay some money to use the service, or use competing services from other companies. Is that okay? You know, to pay for the services you use, and not pay for the ones you don’t? I hope it isn’t too socially unjust..

      I never said “we should rely on a single private company for public access to public airwaves”. I’m simply stating that competition works and government committee planning doesn’t. In this case, the government is in, as you say, the “formative stage” of city-wide wifi, but private industry is already nearly done implementing their solution.

      I assume you’re insinuating that wifi is a human right, and the technologically oppressed poor people are entitled to stream all the HD movies they want, based on the idea that “rich” people signed a magic non-existent undefined “social contract” at birth? Essentially “original sin” for agnostic trendies? I was accidentally born in a specific geographical area, therefor I must either pay for other people’s internet access or be kidnapped and caged for refusing?

      • The wireless spectrum is a public resource. I see no downside to offering the public a non-market alternative for accessing something that already belongs to them. Especially in a media environment where ownership of the licences to use that spectrum are concentrated in just a few companies.



  • “all his photo ops are politically correct ”

    Actually, the politically correct stance is to let people choose for themselves whether or not they wish to wear a helmet, to be treated like car users, where the majority of traffic-related head injuries occur.

  • Mia Nony

    Thank you for this very necessary comment on the wireless gone insane.

    Let’s not try too hard to be certain to repeat the mistakes of others, shall we?

    Toronto’s WiFi district had upper story balconies crashing into the street when the rivets holding them together were sheared by the harmonics which induced aggressive & rapid corrosion from WiFi frequencies.

    Who is deluded enough to believe that our uninsulated bio-electrical bodies will fare better than those rivets? Hell, even coaxial cable is better insulated from frequency conflict than anything biological is. But that does not stop us from precipitating slow motion collapse of all manner of colonies of navigational creatures from bees to humans, since apparently we think we have the supreme right to dismantle the ecosystem wirelessly. Media refused to even cover the WiFi induced structural disintegration in Toronto, let alone to question how it occurred. It happened because these frequencies violate all building & electrical codes. How is that not against the law? And how insurable is THAT?

    The “V” in V-pole ought to stand for Vanishing Pole – as if by magic its wireless frequencies have the capacity to “vanish” bees, bats butterflies, birds, including humans. All navigational creatures to which we remain oblivious are wirelessly slowly succumbing to mass colony collapse disorders, including humans, the only truly disconnected creatures once part of nature, now severed from the earth’s magnetic lines of flux upon which everything living depends & which makes all survival possible. Imagine homing pigeons without it. Imagine whales, dolphins, flocks of birds, the monarch butterfly, without this guidance system. And that is what humans have created, for amusement and mass short term profit, the gradual destruction of the planet’s entire magnetic guidance system.
    This V-pole is to be paid for by your taxes. It is simply the next “smart” grid gimmick. It is becoming obvious that “smart” is not only extremely stupid but uninsurable.
    This pole really puts the “digit” back in “digital”, & any proctologist knows all too well where that goes.

    So finger up & thumbs down to Dougie Gen X Copeland, to groupie journalists & sycophantic greenwashed elected officials, each one seemingly too unwilling to get informed or to even CONSIDER the risk-benefit ratio of global wireless frequency radiation for an entire planet, city by city, pastoral settings one after another. Watch the freely available video from Italy of farm animals in the middle of a vast rural setting, every one of them deformed by cell tower frequency radiation, horrible, split beaks, backwards feet, cows & lambs w/ partial or missing limbs.
    Are people really so easily bemused, distracted, so eager to be readily misled & so wilfully foolish as to ignore at their peril the scientifically proven connection between radiation and DNA shredding? between telecom & utility profit & insurance losses? How long can those charged with our safety continue to get away with the illegal act of causing harm for profit, forbidden under law as plainly stated in the Canadian Auditor General’s Act? Time for arrest of those approving these uninsulated wireless slow motion disasters unfolding in every urban centre.

    Who – other than taxpayers yet again, – is expected to bail out corporations over & over again, & pay for the fall out from billion dollar profit margins of utilities & wireless corporations, to bandaid the ensuing damage paid for by structural & health insurance corporations for the immeasurable cost of this temporarily insane wireless industry bubble?
    What kind of journalism ignores all current & growing numbers of victims of this latest “smart” city gimmick.

    What will happen to ever greater numbers of EHS refugees forced out of urban settings into RF free Zones in total isolation while living on life long disability subsistence, as has already happened with 250,000+ & counting Swedes who suffer from this legally recognized 21st century wireless induced disease burden which is already breaking the back of the medical system in Sweden?
    What kind of self described green visionary mayor is at one and the same time too blinded by corporate green wash to consider WHY the WHO, corrupt as it is, was forced to get rid of wireless corporate members of its own board, & was forced to declare wireless frequencies carcinogenic?
    And why not, since they’re exactly the same ultra low frequencies used by the military as weapons of mass destruction. And people think wireless networks were created just for their idle”amusement”?
    The cumulative coefficient attenuation of “smart” city frequencies from combined system components is horrific yet is being ignored by those too infatuated with wireless to question neurological impairment, including their own.

    Not a whisper by the mayor about anything RELEVANT, nothing about the DNA alteration for those who feel nothing but are being electrically induced by electromagnetic radiation, which is recordable in real time. Just ask Curtis Bennett 1-250-765-9897 or look at his videos of electrical induction & bioelectrical failure from wireless
    www. thermoguy.com..

    How “smart” is that?

    BC Building code Section 4 outlaws the use of vibrations not designed for. That means frequency induced vibrations at 8 billion times a second, which voids structural specs, give authorization for electrical & structural engineers to revoke or deny occupancy permits, & will soon cost developers big time by compromising firewall separations, loosening contacts, causing harmonics induced rapid acceleration of metal corrosion, (nails, screw, beams, electrical wiring, locks, you name it), all of which is in flagrant violation of national & provincial building & electrical codes as well as being outright illegal RIGHT NOW, based on weight of evidence presented by expert witness to Health Canada & Industry Canada, regarding the legally binding necessity for them to have altered Safety Code Six law as of September 24th 2010, in order for the safety law to reflect & match the irrefutable weight of evidence with which they have all been presented.

    Watch for citizen’s arrest of key figures in the near future. Not very smart heads will roll for not being intelligent enough to anticipate the vast domino effect of this proliferating harm. This latest symptom of a tower of wireless Babbling-on Babylon will prove to be one giant empty bubble. Its inseparable twin, wireless addiction, seems certain to assure that a wireless world is bound to collapse under its own weight, possibly sooner than most who are “wired” to wirelessness are able to imagine.

  • Richard Unger

    Hello there,

    Where’s your Helmet Mr. Mayor?
    For laughing out loud, people in power are stupider than you may think. Who authorized this picture your Worship?
    Tell him/ her that the brain damage sustained from a head concussion/ trauma following a biking accident is no joke… and in 99% of all cases is PERMANENT.
    People like Chris Keam above saying “to let people choose for themselves whether or not they wish to wear a helmet” are a danger to themselves and to society.
    This people apparently would stop at nothing from pushing their idiotic agenda on biking.
    Just ask the parents of a paraplegic 20 something, what do they think about their son/ daughter NOT wearing a helmet… you complete ignorant fools!
    It would save you from under some surgeon’s knife, that if you’re lucky!
    Good [policy, bad policy means nothing when you sit on a respirator, all your vitals down to 10%.
    You know what you are? Zero thoughts, all talk and photo ops. Shame on you.
    How pitiful.
    Where’s you helmet Mr. Ignoramus?

    All the best,

    Richard Unger MD (Ret)

    • If you took the time to research the public health statistics, you’d find that helmet laws aren’t particularly effective at mandating use (look around BC for plenty of examples) and they have the unintended consequence of being a disincentive to cycling. Unsurpisingly, faced with these realities, some doctors are smart enough not to confuse individual tragedies with effective policies.


      • ned

        So just because the bikers chose not to wear a helmet than… change the laws in their favor. Are we defending ‘brain injury’ caused in a biking accident or the fact that helmets… makes it difficult for the bikers? LOL!
        Do this exercise Chris
        Hit your head from a wall in your house, first with the helmet on.
        Then, without the helmet. I don’t want to know, I’ll just trust you do it in a professional manner.

        • Actually Ned, I’m defending the right of people to make their own choices for personal protection, esp. since the evidence that bike helmets save lives isn’t cut and dried. But hey, if you want a nanny state telling you what kind of hat to wear, knock yourself out.

  • Mira

    Poles with wireless signal for your convenience… when every corner store, cafe, library… can lend you a signal if you need one!
    Another plea for more taxpayers money, to go line the pockets of one of Vision/ Mayor’s friends.
    And Doug Coupland, please do us a favor and stop venting about V-poles, go grow some veggies on Cortes with your newly found friends in Paris, or even better stay there, freak them out!

  • Standing in-front of a cell tower antenna is not a good thing- they use high-power microwaves and are unhealthy to stand beside.

    I’m a capitalist, but have always felt there is a good argument for socialism in the telecom industry. Cell towers are like plumbing- consumers get little value out of.

    The reality of the industry is that Bell/Telus (I like to call them Bellus) use the same radio transmitters. Bell runs them in the East, Telus in the west. Virgin & Kudoo piggyback on their network too. Rogers/Fido (Rido) is also a shared network.

    We don’t have competing water pipes, nor connections to the power grid- so why should we have multiple radio transmitters? The only result I see is more microwaves frying our brains…

  • Michelle

    Strange idea that’s old already, coupled with the insufferable helmet-less mug of the mayor, holding a cell phone and… his bike, by the horns. Kids, please stay in school, nothing to learn from this guy… on the other hand, if you want to get hit by a bus…