Internet disruption interferes with meter installation

Hydro puts a hold on installing meters in Fauquier, Burton and Arrow Park until potential interference with wireless internet is resolved.

After running into problems with interference in Silverton between BC Hydro’s new meters and local wireless internet service, Hydro has put a hold on installing meters in Fauquier, Burton and Arrow Park. All three communities rely on fixed wireless broadband for their internet access, and broadcast at 900 MHz.

“About a third of our people are on the 900 band,” said Fauquier Internet Society president Frank Poirier.

When Poirier received notice in the mail at the beginning of July that BC Hydro contractor Corix would be installing meters in town, he called the utility with his concerns about potential interference. He was told that the meter transmission would be at 928 MHz, and interference wasn’t likely.

Transmission of messages between the provincial utility and the small internet society seems to be an issue. Hydro representative Cindy Verschoor claims that Hydro “sent a direct email to the internet service provider in Fauquier to make them aware of possible interference issues.” According to Verschoor, Hydro is still awaiting a response from Fauquier.

“They made no effort to get in touch with us,” said Pat Kula from the Fauquier Internet Society.

Kula agreed that the meter transmissions shouldn’t cause a problem in theory, “but you’ve got to know about the technology,” she qualified. “If [the meters] stayed to 928, then the theory is that they should be ok. But what seems to happen is that they’re broadcasting across the whole 900 spectrum.”

“BC Hydro had an open competitive procurement process to select our new metering system and did not specify the use of 900 MHz unlicensed frequency band,” said Verschoor in an email to the Arrow Lakes News, who also added that the majority of smart metering vendors around the world operate in the 900 MHz frequency band.

“While the 900 MHz frequency band is not normally used by ISPs, we are reaching out in an effort to work more collaboratively to ensure mutual coexistence of our equipment. We are fully compliant with Industry Canada regulation,” read the email.

Kula pointed out that 900 MHz is the only frequency that can transmit through dense brush and trees, a necessity for getting the signal to homes in our heavily treed region.

Hydro, the newbies to the frequency, says they won’t install the new meters until a solution to the interference issue is found.

“We are still working with internet service providers to find a mutually agreeable solution,” wrote Verschoor, “In the meantime, we have temporarily stopped installing meters in areas where we are aware of possible wireless interference issues until the situation is resolved.”