Opinion – Can you hear me now?

through the looking glassWhere is the cell service?

By Marianne Curtis

For this writer the first week of October was a very exciting yet, unnerving experience. My excitement kicked off when I was personally evacuated by fire fighters after explosions rocked St. Boniface. With five fire fighters threatening to physically carry me out, I reluctantly left my post at a job similar to 9-11 dispatching. Yes, it was exciting but at the same time very frightening due the proximity to the fire which had several fuel filled freight cars threatening to explode. I went home and thanked my lucky stars that this incident ended without any injuries – including to myself.

The next day, I witnessed the mass exodus of communities like St. Malo, Vita and Ross as homes were threatened by massive wild fires. Fire crews from several municipalities worked tirelessly in both areas to prevent loss of property and life. Just when things started to get under control, mother nature dumped a pile of white stuff onto the world. Within 48 hours the southeast was powerless as thousands of customers were thrown into darkness and cold; hundreds of downed power lines and trees had shut down the area.

But I was oblivious. I was on the road to Vita, doing my job of delivering the papers when I got the call from the office “where are you?” asked my editor. “Delivering papers, I just pulled into Vita after the detour from hell.” The gravity of the situation didn’t really hit me until I got close to Sundown.

I was literally navigating by keeping the van between the ditches. I should not have been out there, but since I already was, I kept going. After leaving Vita, I was on my own. No cell service. Thinking ahead to the possible dangers the further I got from Vita, I did the “smart thing”. I took to Twitter. Throughout the day, I sent various tweets. “Vita check in, Piney check in, Vassar check in”. I knew these texts were a waste of time when sent but I knew eventually that when I hit some type of service, my tweets would post and if I didn’t make it home, SOMEONE would know where I had been and through process of elimination, I would be found. Right?

Not really.

The southeast is a big area and there are a lot of roads where it is miles before you see a house. If stranded, you are stuck until the next car comes along – IF there is a next car. There is NO emergency service! Seriously? We live in a world where there are countries with people are so poor they can’t eat yet they have cell service. We pay for services through the teeth; it’s nearly impossible to find a decent cell plan for less than $30 a month but there is still no access? This is unacceptable!

For years, I have spoken to representatives from the RM of Stuartburn and Piney; they’re argument is the same – bring us service, bring us safety, bring us communications – lives depend on it. But they’re cries fall on deaf ears. About 10 years ago, the province kicked in funding to hook up communities to high speed internet – they gave funding and support. It is time for that support again. Where are our government representatives – they can push for other things – start pushing for this – LIVES depend on it.


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