BLACK PRESS FILE PHOTO                                North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney wants to see cell service along Northern Vancouver Island highway.

BLACK PRESS FILE PHOTO North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney wants to see cell service along Northern Vancouver Island highway.

MP Rachel Blaney argues for cell phone service along North Vancouver Island highway

The inability to communicate on the highway is a safety issue for many commuters.

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney wants to see cell service from Campbell River to the true North Island become a reality.

Blaney wrote a letter to Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Rural Economic Development, expressing her concerns “with the lack of continuous cellular service along Highway 19, connecting several communities in my riding.”

Blaney noted the District of Port Hardy, the Sayward Futures Society, Sayward Tourism Committee and many others “have contacted this government to request immediate attention to this matter. The inability to communicate along the northern portion of this route is a safety issue for its many commuters.”

According to Blaney’s letter, back on Jan. 17, 2018, the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia announced a combined investment of $45.4 million to bring new or improved high-speed internet to 154 rural and remote communities in British Columbia, including the communities of Tahsis, Tsaxana, Gold River, and Campbell River, however, “nothing was mentioned for the communities of Port Hardy or Sayward. Federal, provincial, and territorial ministers for economic development agreed to make broadband a priority and establish a long-term strategy to improve access to high-speed Internet services for all Canadians. Among other objectives, Ministers agreed to work towards improving access to the latest mobile wireless services along major roads.”

Blaney concluded by stating she looks “forward to your collaboration to ensure that the northern communities in my riding are not forgotten.”

Back in October of 2018, the Sayward Futures Society and Sayward Tourism Committee started a campaign to extend cell phone service on the island highway.

The campaign 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.

“The current service provider has stated that they have no intention of providing this service in the foreseeable future,” the campaign letter read. “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,” the statement continued.

The campaign letter encouraged concerned citizens to write to CRTC in support of extending cell phone coverage along the island highway. Some of the reasons to write may include safety concerns when vehicles break down or when an individual crashes their car.

Other 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.

with files from Thomas Kervin