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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria School for Ideal Education at 2820 Belmont Avenue is the second school in Greater Victoria with an active confirmed COVID-19 exposure. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Private school becomes second Greater Victoria school with COVID-19 exposure

Victoria School for Ideal Education follows Lakeview Christian School in Saanich

Brenda Schroeder thought she was reading it wrong when she won $100,000 from a Season’s Greetings Scratch & Win. (Courtesy BCLC)
New home on the agenda after scratch ticket win in Saanich

Victoria woman set to share her $100,000 Season’s Greetings lottery win

An economic recovery plan in progress since April offers various recommendations for the region to overcome the impacts of COVID-19. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Greater Victoria economic ‘reboot’ plan tackles impacts of COVID-19

Newly-formed task force looks at various sectors, industries

A seabin is able to intercept and collect floating debris in calm bodies of water. This is one of two installed in the North Saanich Marina by a group of local businesses thanks to the proceeds from Blue Friday sales in 2019. (Provided by Maya Bellay)
Blue Friday to support more trash skimmers in Greater Victoria waters

Seabins can collect up to one-and-a-half tons of floating debris per year

Vehicles involved crashes in Oak Bay from 2019. (ICBC Screenshot)
A crash on Foul Bay Road near Carnarvon Street in 2018. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Foul Bay Road a corridor of crashes in 2019

Last year, 63 crashes in Oak Bay involved vehicles

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Care home staff are diligent about wearing personal protective equipment when they are in contact with residents, but less so when they interact with other staff members, B.C. Seniors Advocate says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
More COVID-19 testing needed for senior home staff, B.C.’s advocate says

Employees mingling spotted as virus conductor in many workplaces

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Bank of Montreal, located on Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver. (Google Maps)
Heiltsuk man files human rights complaint against Vancouver police, BMO after bank arrest

Pair remains distraught after employee falsely reports fraud in progress leading to their arrest

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

BCHL
BCHL pushes back season start due to provincial health orders

The delay is minimal, just six days, for now. But the league is open to starting up after Christmas

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Most Read