Company applies to offer cell phone service here and along coast

  • Jul. 13, 2007 11:00 a.m.

A Vancouver-based company has applied to Industry Canada for permission to provide cell phone service to Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, the Inside Passage and the Central Coast. RuralCom Corporation made the application several months ago. In a letter posted on the Industry Canada website, chief executive Robert Hillman says that the proposed areas are currently unserved or underserved by Rogers Wireless Inc, and that large numbers of cruise ship passengers as well as local residents and marine traffic lack access to full digital roaming. “Due in part to the lack of roads and extreme remoteness of most of the area, RuralCom submits that the proposed cellular service will greatly enhance public safety and the general welfare of local residents and travellers transiting the area,” Mr. Hillman wrote. Industry Canada is now checking to see if any other companies are interested in providing service to this area. Last month, the department posted a notice to advise potential service providers of RuralCom’s plans, giving them until Aug. 9 to respond. Wayne Choi, director for Industry Canada’s spectrum and telecom program in the Pacific region, said this is the first step in what could be a long process. Industry Canada checks to see if other companies are interested because while the spectrum is large enough for more than one operator, it is not unlimited. Telus, which started providing some cell phone service on the Charlottes last year, did not need to go through this process because it already holds a licence giving it the right to operate across the country, Mr. Choi said. Any companies which want to offer service must also meet Industry Canada standards for Canadian ownership, financial stability and technical parameters, Mr. Choi said. (The Observer called RuralCom but wasn’t able to speak to anyone before this week’s deadline.) Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha, who has been lobbying for full cell phone coverage across the islands, said she hadn’t heard of the RuralCom application and had a lot of questions about how it would work. Meanwhile, she said that this week Telus is sending engineers to survey possible sites for cell phone infrastructure, like Mount Poole, just south of Alliford Bay. A tower on Mount Poole could provide service Sandspit, Queen Charlotte and Skidegate, she said. Ms Kulesha said Telus representatives will give her an update on the situation later this month. Access to cell phone service is vital for the islands, she said, both in emergency situations and for regular business. Ms Kulesha said she gets more business done on behalf of the town when she is in Vancouver and able to use her cell phone than she does in Queen Charlotte, because here she can’t always be reached by phone.

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