Traveling up Island is now a bit safer as cell phone service has been expanded along Highway 19 heading north.
Telus has added roughly six kilometres of cell phone coverage between Sayward and Woss with the addition of two new wireless sites along the highway.
Sayward Mayor John MacDonald said the $1.5 million Telus initiative – in partnership with the province – is a much-needed asset.
“The extension of wireless service between Sayward and Woss will be a definite asset for travellers along Highway 19 when emergency services are required,” MacDonald told the Mirror.
Prior to the new wireless sites, depending on the carrier, cell service typically cut out just before Roberts Lake when heading north and did not return until just outside Telegraph Cove, south of Port McNeill.
The new sites not only provide additional coverage along Highway 19 but also provide both Sayward and Woss with cell phone service.
“This investment brings wireless service to Sayward and Woss for the first time, which means residents in the area can now connect with family and friends when they’re at home or on the go with their mobile devices,” said Ray Lawson, Telus general manager for Vancouver Island, in a release.
MacDonald said having cell phone service in Sayward, which just recently went live, “will be a boom for economic development in Sayward.” He said his village council was appreciative of Telus “in getting this much needed service in Sayward.”
MacDonald added that while the sites add service within the village, it does not cover Area A – the surrounding area immediately outside of Sayward village. Connectivity for Area A and other rural areas within the region is a strategic priority for the Strathcona Regional District which has been on the lookout for funding opportunities to enhance those services.
Such improvements have also been a priority for North Island MLA Claire Trevena who, last year, issued a release urging Telus and the B.C. ministry of technology and citizen services to step up and provide better service to the North Island.
“I regularly hear about the lack of cell coverage on our major highways – 19 and 28,” Trevena said in a February, 2015 release. “This is as important to communities as electrification once was. Our communities are no less deserving than the South Island or Lower Mainland.”
The new wireless service is part of a 10-year Connecting British Columbia Agreement Telus signed with the province in 2011. Under the agreement, Telus has committed to provide more than 1,700 kilometres of highways with cell service.