Jackman-Atkinson: Call for better coverage
- Published on Thursday, October 18, 2012
By: Kate Jackman-Atkinson
Earlier this month, wild fires flared up in the eastern part of the province, stoked by dry conditions and heavy winds. These brought to the forefront a real challenge facing many rural Manitobans.
In the RM of St. Laurent, located about 100 km northwest of Winnipeg, about 2,000 acres of grass and bush burned. Fire fighters were dealing with two fires located close to one another. Over the course of a couple of days, the fires spread to the point where they were close to endangering people and homes.
In the Vita area, located about 120 km south-east of Winnipeg, residents were evacuated because of a wild fire that destroyed three homes and led to the collapse of a bridge.
While the fires were ultimately extinguished, fire officials continued to worry that the fire had just gone underground and could be reignited by wind at any time.
Numerous volunteers stepped up to help fight the fires and save these communities but they faced a real problem, one with which we are all too familiar: spotty cell coverage. Power outages and a fire, which by its nature is unpredictable, meant that cell phones were needed to co-ordinate evacuations and fire fighting efforts in real-time. The problem is that the Vita area is apparently one of numerous areas in the province with hit-and-miss cell phone coverage.
There’s nothing like an emergency like this to highlight the need for improved cell service and the provincial opposition renewed calls for improved cell coverage. Emergency Measures Critic Mavis Taillieu stated it pretty clearly saying, “I think it is totally unacceptable to treat some Manitobans as second-class citizens. It’s not about talk and text, it’s about safety.”
PC Party figures say that about 8,000 Manitobans live in a cell phone dead zone, a number that doubles during cottage season. Most of us know first-hand what this is like.
Last month, I spent the better part of a day on the west side of Lake Manitoba. I was travelling on a paved highway and in communities. I had little service. It isn’t just more rural or remote areas that suffer from spotty service, I recently discovered that there are sections of Hwy. #1 between Brandon and Winnipeg where I have no service at all.
The partnership between Rogers and MTS, in which the two companies would share towers in order to provide better service to their customers, came into effect last year. While it has improved service, 3G is now available in many more places, there doesn’t seem to have been an appreciable increase in coverage. In some places, I no longer get service in areas where I once did.
In today’s world, a cell phone has become more than just a novelty and the lack of cell coverage is a safety concern. Whether it’s for calling for help after an accident or trying to contact someone to let them know about approaching danger like a fire, rural Manitobans need better service. It could be a matter of life or death.