LETTER – Recent accident shows need for improved cell service on north Vancouver Island

Dear editor,

A group of concerned Sayward residents have recently begun circulating a petition to the Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, to intervene with the CRTC to facilitate continuous cellular phone service on the Highway 19 corridor, especially between Campbell River and Port Hardy.

Nothing underscores the need for improved cell service along Highway 19 than the plight of a young Sayward-area man who recently lost control of his vehicle and crashed into the undergrowth along the highway about 50 kilometres north of Campbell River. He remained trapped in his vehicle, seriously injured, for five days until a local hunter happened to spot him. This young man, still recovering in a Victoria hospital, was fortunate to survive this incident. Next time, in similar circumstances, others may not be so lucky if they do not have access to cell service. Improved cellular service in the area would also aid in shortening the time between the reporting of future incidents and the arrival of EMS personnel.

Another equally valid reason for improved cellular service along Highway 19 is tourism. Northern Vancouver Island is rapidly becoming a destination of choice for both international and Canadian travellers due to our unspoiled natural wonders, helped, in part, by the low Canadian dollar. Studies have shown that up to 80 per cent of vacationers make some or most of their travel decisions using their mobile devices while they are en route to their next destination. If so, as things stand today, due to the lack of cell phone service, those vacationers may be in for a surprise if they are travelling on Vancouver Island north of Campbell River.

Tourism and public safety, for area residents and for travellers, are both valid reasons for better cell phone service along the Highway 19 corridor on Vancouver Island. We would like to have this basic service, which most Canadians take for granted, available to us as well.

Ken McRae,

Sayward