ALMONTE — Over nearly 25 years of operation, Storm Internet Services has gained some deep-rooted experience in the delivery of wireless broadband over tree-mounted broadcast antennas. But this seemingly green technique is one the firm now eschews on its rural Easter Ontario-wide network where traditional towers are the norm.
Affirmation of that approach came last week when a remaining Storm “node” way up in a tree became the victim of high winds. A branch broke and ripped a cable out of the antenna, interrupting service to a small number of customers relying on that node. To complicate matters, the involved tree was also dead and would be unsafe to climb — even by the increasingly difficult-to-find professionals specializing in tree-climbing.
Reconnecting the old antenna was a no-go, and a new node had to be set up — quickly — to reestablish Internet for Storm’s affected clientele.
“Our friends at NorthWind Wireless helped out by loaning us a temporary tower,” reports Storm owner Birket Foster, sharing photos of the portable structure that arrived by trailer. “We worked with Northwind Owner Dave McKeen and Andrew who brought over the tower and set it up with a crew of five Storm folks.
“Problem solved and the clients are back on line,” added Foster on Thursday of this week, summing up an accomplishment of “real people helping real people doing real work.”
Foster says that Storm’s safety policy at this point only allows equipment to be installed in trees no higher than the maximum height of its ladders. While the company still has some antennas deployed higher up in the tree canopy at various sites, he estimates those locations at less than 20 today.
He points out that tree-mounted broadband antennas are subject to performance issues as trees sway and generally have more movement than a fixed tower. Trees also grow, he observes, requiring someone to climb up and readjust the antenna, to keep it property pointed, every couple of years.
Photos accompanying this article were taken by Arndt Hempell, Jason Forester and Louie Lalonde.