By Marianne Curtis
Since the provincial election there has been a renewed interest on all fronts to bring reliable cellular service into areas of the southeast that currently don’t have service or have limited service.
The push started when the four reeves from Stuartburn, La Broquerie, Piney and Franklin met together to discuss how to lobby for better cell phone service. The urgency for action was recently escalated when wildfires tore thought all four municipalities making it dangerous for residents and emergency crews.
“The potential for fatalities was great during the fires,” Stuartburn reeve Jim Swidersky stated. “We want the provincial and federal governments to agree to the need for service and then act on it.”
He added that the reeves are even discussing setting up their own board or planning group to pursue this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.
“It is more than just having the service for emergencies because businesses and industries require modern communication so they can stay in business,” Swidersky stressed.
The municipalities have asked for assistance from a number of government officials including recently elected La Verendrye MLA Dennis Smook and Provencher MP Vic Toews.
“I have raised this with both MTS Allstream and with Rogers and I am working with the appropriate Minister in order to ensure that there’s some kind of resolution to this problem,” assured Toews. “This is simply unacceptable that in such a large area of south eastern Manitoba, where all kinds of risks could occur, this is simply not acceptable that there’s little or no cell phone service.”
Toews added that in discussions he has heard from the phone company that they don’t have the funding to provide the service to every corner of the province.
Premier Greg Selinger recently went on record saying that it is up to the province and municipalities to continue to present their cases to MTS and other telephone companies.
“The province could subsidise construction for more cell towers but it is up the companies to supply the service,” Selinger stated. “I think we do need better service coverage and we have to talk to the regulator to find out what the minimum standards should be.”