Google Maps photo Cellular phone coverage areas between Campbell River and Port McNeill

North Islanders call for cell service in gaping Island Highway hole

With a few exceptions, service mostly non-existent between Campbell River and Port McNeill

Lack of cell phone service on the Island Highway north of Campbell River is more than an inconvenience, it’s an economic anchor, and it could be a matter of life and death.

That’s the position of a Sayward-based push to ensure reliable service along the highway all the way to Port Hardy.

The campaign, from the Sayward Futures Society and Sayward Tourism Committee, was born out of a tragic incident where a woman was driving along Highway 19 and crashed her car into the side of the road. Unable to call emergency services the woman was left at the scene of the crash for a prolonged time without help.

“(It’s) fundamentally about safety on the highway,” Sayward Futures Society director Alex Turner said. “There’s a possibility of various accidents, especially during the winter. The hill going up from Robert’s Lake, that’s where you lose coverage, and then no service on the highway. (Drivers are) without service the whole highway, except two possible spots with coverage at Woss and Telegraph Cove.”

He also explained that because there are so few networks and cellular carriers in the area that CRTC has a responsibility to step in, perhaps through funding cellular towers with grants.

“The current service provider has stated that they have no intention of providing this service in the foreseeable future,” the campaign letter reads. “Our recourse is to appeal to the Canadian Radio-television Communications Commission (CRTC). The Commission can require the service provider to ensure that there is continuous service on the full length of the highway.”

In addition to safety issues, concerns also relate to how rural areas may be becoming less relevant for tourists destinations, especially visitor centres, and how travellers are more reliant on cell phone coverage when visiting the North Island. Many tourists are basing their travelling on local tourism businesses’ advice. Cellular phone service in uncovered areas in the North Island may allow local tourism groups and tourist operators to aid travellers in their expeditions.

“The campaign started because the tourism committee has come to realize that tourism these days works through electronic means. 85 per cent of tourism bookings are made on the road as they travel,” Turner said. “(Sayward needs to) have to have connectivity here for our tourism group on the highway.”

Regional District of Mt. Waddington’s chief administrative officer Greg Fletcher confirms there is a grant program available for communities under 5,000 population, which is called “Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure” under Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

The grant funding includes internet and cellular infrastructure and covers 100 per cent of the project costs. Sayward would need to apply by Jan. 23, 2019 for the grant funding.

Organizers encourage concerned citizens to write the CRTC in support of the campaign.

Just Posted

Resident charged $48,350 fine for poisoning large Oak Bay tree

The district says this amount represents the appraised value of the tree

BC Ferries not as full as reported due to ability to book consecutive sailings

Multiple reservation booking strategy artificially inflates BC Ferries “current conditions”

Island Health encourages sexual assault survivors to #TrustYourself

New social media campaign urges survivors of sexual assault to seek medical care

Mayor-elect Fred Haynes wants to study idea of bringing film studio, new hockey arena to Saanich

Haynes also calls on council to help turn private surplus land into public park

‘She’s charging. Oh God’: Mama grizzly runs at B.C. man armed with shotgun

People online were quick to question – and defend – a man’s decision to shoot a grizzly bear charging him on a Bella Coola front yard

Canada announces $20M fund for women entrepreneurs

New federal program will provide up to $100,000 for female business owners to grow their operations

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Vancouver Island man claims falling ice smashed his truck windshield

Man discovered volleyball-sized chunk ice on his truck Saturday, near Nanaimo, B.C.

B.C. veteran combats PTSD in the ring and on the farm

Cam Tetrault is a valuable contributor at Quesnel’s Two Rivers Boxing Club

Fast ferries from B.C. spotted in Egypt

Controversial aluminum BC Ferries vessels ’big white elephants covered in dust,’ eyewitness says

Canadian troops, families take shelter in hotel after Florida hurricane

Most of the Canadians were evacuated from the military base before Hurricane Michael

B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Garry Handlen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Monica Jack on May 6, 1978.

5 tips to keep trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween

BC Children’s Hospital has a few suggestions to keep Oct. 31 fun

Most Read