When Brian Summers gets on his amateur radio, he’s not looking to strike up a conversation with people a world away. The Saanich resident uses his amateur radio to track the sun’s affect on radio signals.
“I’m very interested in how radio propagation, which is how signals go from point to another, will change throughout a 24-hour period,” he said. “It changes through the year, through the season, through the 11-year sunspot cycle, because the sun has such a tremendous effect on what we do here on Earth, not only with radio but with other things as well.”
While a lot of time and effort goes into Summers’ hobby, the real work may have been just getting the approval for the antenna that makes it all possible.
Summers managed to overcome the opposition of some of his neighbours to erect a 15-metre radio tower in his backyard at 3451 Salsbury Way – just in time for one of the biggest solar events in years: the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.
“There was a lot of written arguments and objections,” said Summers, who received a letter from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada last month informing him the process was complete and his application had been approved.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever had to do that. I had a tower for 18 years in Ottawa, three in Calgary, 16 in Richmond, and never had an issue with neighbours until I came here,” he said, adding he found the formal consultation process educational.
“I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. It went on for too long, quite frankly, and people get very emotional about this,” said Summers, pointing to one of his neighbours who has draped tarps and blankets over the fence between the properties. “It looks like Jacob’s coat of many colours.”
Another neighbour who collected names for a petition against the radio tower is Adele Caird. When she previously voiced her opposition to the tower with Summers, he told her that she would get used to it, like the hydro poles that checker the neighbourhood.
“No I’m not used to it, not at all,” said Caird, adding the antenna has disrupted wifi reception for several nearby residents.
“It keeps going off and on. We can’t get a signal, sometimes we can’t even get into Netflix,” said Caird, adding she never previously had problems with reception in the 32 years she’s lived in her home.
Caird said she is in contact with another neighbour who plans to pursue legal action to have the tower removed.
Summers said he suggested that any residents who experience interruptions in their wifi should keep track of the date, time and symptoms, and he will check them against the computer log of his radio use.
“If there is a correlation I will be more than happy to work with their internet supplier to come up with a solution,” he said. “That’s part of my responsibility as a radio operator.”
Despite the static he’s received from neighbours, Summers is happy he can continue with the hobby he has pursued for more than 60 years.
“I grew up in England after [the Second] World War and most houses would have a radio with a shortwave band and I was fascinated listening to the propaganda from the Voice of America and Radio Moscow,” he said “I guess it’s just an interest that’s stayed with me throughout the years.”