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

Drivesmart column: Fear of police retaliation

While I won’t say that this is impossible, I would certainly like to think that it is highly unlikely

Cowichan Div. 2 women out-paced in last match of 2018

Soccer team has second game of the weekend postponed by weather

Robert Barron column: Universal child care good for families, and society

I’m pleased that the province is stepping in to start providing $10-per-day childcare spaces

Lynn’s hat trick gets Caps past Salmon Arm

Cowichan wins second game of Interior road trip

From introducing k.d. lang to honouring Gordon Lightfoot, Cowichan Theatre has had busy 40 years

40-year retrospective has offered theatregoers a glimpse of Cowichan’s entertainment history

VIDEO: Cobble Hill welcomes Christmas with frolicsome show

From lovely carols to humorous skits: a big crowd enjoyed it all on Sunday, Dec. 9

Coming up in Cowichan: Celebrate the second floor with the HUB

Celebrate the second floor this weekend at HUB at Cowichan Station Dec.… Continue reading

Crossword puzzle clues Dec. 14

Oops. Attention all crossword puzzle fans: the clues in the Friday, Dec.… Continue reading

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

GoFundMe helps Vancouver Island teen battle a rare cancer

Nanaimo’s Michelle Reilly, 16, battling spinal cord cancer, seeking possible treatment in U.S.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

Most Read