Cell phones essential, say elected leaders

  • Nov. 24, 2006 8:00 a.m.

Elected leaders on the islands are demanding that Telus provide more cell phone coverage here, saying that the service is essential for doing business in the modern world as well as for safety reasons. Representatives of the Council of the Haida Nation, the three municipalities and the regional district all signed a letter sent to Telus this week, reflecting their concerns about the state of cellular service here. Telus installed antennas in June to towers in Masset and Sandspit which provide limited cell phone service to those communities. “What is the infrastructure needed for full island coverage and what are the timelines for construction?” asks the letter. “Though we are willing to work with Telus through GwaiiTel to see if some of our infrastructure could be of assistance, we need assurance that Telus intends to be our provider and intends to provide that service in a timely manner. If Telus is not willing to provide full service then we need to know that the company is willing to move aside for another provider.” In a letter to Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha earlier this month, Telus vice-president of government relations Dave Cunningham said that while the company is working to expand cell service across BC, it does not have plans currently to extend coverage on the islands. Meanwhile, the islands broadband network is up and running well, says project manager Paul Daniell. Several bugs have been shaken out of the system since the switch was first turned on over the Nov. 10-12 weekend, he said. “Everything is sort of settling in, there’s lots more adjusting,” he said. “But the basic community network is up and running, and that’s good news.” Two inspectors from Industry Canada – one from Prince George and one from Vancouver – were on the islands earlier this week inspecting the system. They signed off on it Thursday (Nov. 23), Mr. Daniell said. Industry Canada provided half the funding for the broadband infrastructure, with the other half coming from the Gwaii Trust Society. The Gwaii Trust is running the system but it will be officially turned over to GwaiiTel, an organization owned equally by the seven islands communities, on Dec. 1. Mr. Daniell said islands leaders met Tuesday to discuss GwaiiTel, but haven’t yet decided on the board structure.

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