Rural communities out of luck on cell service

Bert Braybrook (standing) of Telus speaks to Community to Community forum.

Bert Braybrook (standing) of Telus speaks to Community to Community forum.

CLEARWATER — The expansion of cellphone service hoped for by so many rural communities isn’t going to happen any time soon, says a Telus spokesman.

Bert Braybrook, general manager for Telus in the Kamloops-Cariboo region, told a group of North Thompson community leaders this week that his company is focusing on enhancing existing cell corridors and has no plans to expand off the beaten path to rural communities.

I represented Electoral Area P at a Community to Community forum in the Dutch Lake Community Centre in Clearwater on Friday (Jan. 29, 2016), at which Braybrook spoke. Neither Pinantan nor Heffley Lake in Area P have cell service and residents there have been asking for it for several years.

It was clear at the meeting that other regional directors and municipal councillors are unhappy about the lack of cell service in their areas as well.

But Braybrook said there’s no current business case for expanding service because of the high capital cost of building towers, and a change in CRTC regulations that caps roaming rates.

He said the intention of the cap was to lower rates and increase competition but it limits where Telus can expand because other cellphone providers such as Rogers can piggyback on its infrastructure instead of building their own.

The roaming cap limits Telus’ ability to recoup its investment, said Braybrook.

“It certainly hasn’t done any of you folks any favours,” he said.

I suggested cellphone carriers need to look to their social responsibility as well as their bottom lines because cell service is a safety issue, not just a convenience.

Braybrook acknowledged he hears from many communities about safety concerns but “for us to invest a million dollars for something we’ll never see a return on makes it very challenging.”

Bill Kershaw of Area O, which takes in the area surrounding Barriere, said the situation leaves resorts in his part of the region “out of luck.”

Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine said other cellphone companies aren’t expanding into rural communities either.

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