Progress made on cellphone coverage but gaps remain in Central Interior

·3 min read

The effort to fill gaps in the Central Interior's cellphone coverage has advanced a step.

A cellphone tower erected in Perow, just west of Topley and about 280 kilometres west of Prince George, is now live, Telus said this week, bringing service to 270 households and an eight kilometre section of Highway 16.

As well, service to the Sai'kuz First Nation reserve south of Vanderhoof is to go live next week, bringing service to about 238 households, the company said in an email to the Citizen.

One other project in Telus' job jar remains ongoing - to extend coverage for six kilometres along Highway 26 and bring the community of Wells and its 239 households into the fold.

The Jack-of-Clubs Lake rest area is also be upgraded to offer Wi-Fi as well as cell coverage to travellers.

First announced in May, the work was originally scheduled for completion by the end of this past October but is now slated for the end of this year, the company said.

As well, work to extend coverage in the Pine Pass, also first slated for completion by the end of last month, has fallen behind schedule. That project has been taken on by Rogers Communications.

“We know how important reliable connectivity is to those travelling along Highway 97 and our teams are working hard to expand wireless service from Pine Pass to Chetwynd," Rogers said in an email to the Citizen.

"We are focused on completing this important project and expect to have improved service live in 2022 while we address the ongoing global equipment shortage, complexities of obtaining building permits, as well as the challenging terrain in the area."

The $6.4-million project aims to fill gaps along a 68-kilometre stretch along Highway 97 between the Highway 39 junction and Chetwynd and to bring service Powder King Mountain Resort and the West Pine rest area.

Rogers is also taking on an $11.6-million project to improve signal strength between Prince Rupert and Smithers along Highway 16 West, with an October 2022 completion date.

Telus added that last year the company spent more than $1 million to build a new cell site about 60 kilometres west of Terrace, bringing coverage to an area that was previously one of the longest stretches of Highway 16 without any wireless service.

"Over the last decade, Telus has connected more than 500 kilometres of Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George to a reliable wireless signal, bringing coverage to more than 78% of the highway and enhancing the safety of travel across Northern B.C. We have heard from residents that this connectivity brings more peace of mind, knowing that help is only a phone call away when they are on the road," the company said.

Earlier this fall, Telus also launched a campaign in partnership with Prince George Native Friendship Centre and the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia, to distribute cellphones and data plans to Indigenous women at risk in the region.

"This program provides a critical lifeline to timely emergency services, reliable access to virtual healthcare and wellness resources, and the ability for women who are at risk or are surviving violence to stay connected to their friends, family, and support networks," the company said.

Meanwhile, Rogers said this week that three Prince George-based organizations - Carrier Sekani Family Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern BC, and YMCA of Northern BC - were among 70 recipients of Ted Rogers Community Grants to continue youth-oriented programs.

Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen

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