Burns Lake council will seek support of Electoral Areas B and E to continue working towards improving cellphone coverage in the region.
Last September, members of council met with Network B.C. during the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Victoria to discuss possible improvements to cellphone service in the Lakes District.
Howard Randell, executive director of Network B.C., recently sent a letter to council saying Network B.C. has reached out to both Telus and Rogers to draw attention to the need for further coverage in the area.
“The province is aware of the importance of cellular connectivity along provincial highways and rural communities, especially to improve public safety, and support economic development and tourism,” said Randell. “There may be options for improving coverage if capital contributions from other sources are available.”
“We encourage the village to reach out to Telus and Rogers to consider where cellular expansion opportunities may exist through cost and spectrum sharing arrangements.”
Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach, who was at the UBCM meeting in September, said the letter “worries him” because it sounds like, “If you want something, you’re going to have to pay for it.”
Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Burns Lake, suggested that council meet with directors of Electoral Area B and E to propose a partnership in which the village and Electoral Areas B and E would move forward as a community.
“If [Electoral] Areas B and E aren’t interested in moving forward, it would be difficult for us,” said Worthing.
Mayor Beach said the village has to “keep pushing” to improve cellphone services.
“House prices in Kelowna are skyrocketing because people are moving out of Vancouver,” he said. “With better connectivity, our area will be more attractive to those people, so it’s pretty important for us.”
Councillor Michael Riis-Christianson said that, in addition to better cellphone coverage, the village needs to look at improving its broadband Internet service.
“In our economic development strategy, we don’t really mention connectivity as an important factor, but we are seeing that connectivity is becoming an increasingly important factor for retaining and recruiting businesses, and it may soon be the primary issue,” said Riis-Christianson.
“You see the way the economy is transitioning from the traditional economy to a more knowledge-based economy and connectivity is increasingly important,” he continued. “If you have a broadband service in a place like this, given our house prices, it could open up a lot of doors for us.”
Council passed a motion to meet with Bill Miller, Director of Electoral Area B, and Eileen Benedict, Director of Electoral Area E, to continue discussions.