The Casket - - LO­CAL -

fighters have not taken this is­sue ly­ing down. They have con­sulted the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the County of Antigo­nish – some­thing that hasn’t yet re­sulted in a tan­gi­ble change.

"The mu­nic­i­pal­ity is com­pletely on board. We talked about the cost of fund­ing tow­ers, and how im­por­tant those tow­ers are – and it just ended there, with­out go­ing any­where," Maceach­ern said.

Maceach­ern ex­pressed sim­i­lar dis­ap­pointed with telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pa­nies which are re­spon­si­ble for tech­no­log­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture in the area, and what lit­tle she sees them hav­ing done to rec­tify the prob­lem.

"Providers are say­ing the tech­nol­ogy is con­stantly be­ing up­graded, and they’re putting a tower here and there. They prom­ise peo­ple bet­ter service – and it never seems to hap­pen," she said. "Peo­ple are pay­ing the same amount as ev­ery­one else for bills and cell cov­er­age, and they’re not get­ting it. You don’t pay a lower rate for sub­stan­dard service."

Tech­ni­cal de­tails

Ac­cord­ing to the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the County of Antigo­nish, cel­lu­lar tow­ers in the county are owned and run by three com­pa­nies: Bell, Rogers and East­link.

Telus, and a num­ber of other providers use Bell’s in­fra­struc­ture to pro­vide service in Antigo­nish County.

In an email re­sponse, Is­abelle Boulet with Bell noted wire­less strength in ru­ral ar­eas can often be limited.

"Ad­vanced com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works are ex­pen­sive to build and op­er­ate, and the busi­ness case for ex­panded wire­less cov­er­age in ar­eas of low pop­u­la­tion den­sity is es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing with pri­vate in­vest­ment alone," Boulet wrote.

Boulet wrote that while Bell is "al­ways look­ing for net­work ex­pan­sion op­por­tu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing part­ner­ships with gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties," it has no plans for any en­hance­ments of projects in the Cape George area any­time soon.

Re­quests for in­for­ma­tion were ex­tended to East­link and Rogers, but the com­pa­nies were not able to pro­vide a re­sponse in time for the press dead­line of The Cas­ket.

Go­ing for­ward

Maceach­ern is un­sure what to do next – be­yond rais­ing a stink, and mak­ing it clear, at the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial level, the is­sue still needs to be prop­erly ad­dressed.

"I don’t un­der­stand how we get such lit­tle service. We’re not that far out of town," Maceach­ern said. "Some­thing needs to hap­pen. It isn’t the first time this has come up. Shrug­ging their shoul­ders and say­ing, ‘noth­ing we can do about it’ isn’t go­ing to save some­one’s life."

Mu­nic­i­pal per­spec­tive

Coun­cilor Mary Ma­clel­lan of the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Antigo­nish County has been bat­tling to bring bet­ter service to District 1, an area that in­cludes Cape George, Ari­saig, Malig­nant Cove for a long time – and that ef­fort that re­mains on­go­ing.

Fund­ing was the topic of an Aug. 20 meet­ing with res­i­dents of District #1, Cen­tral Nova MP Sean Fraser and Antigo­nish MLA Randy Delorey. Ma­clel­lan said a dis­cus­sion of po­ten­tial sources of fund­ing to im­prove wire­less telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture in the area took place.

"We re­it­er­ated con­cerns ex­pressed by many res­i­dents from the district, mainly about the lack of re­li­able service and of In­ter­net service," Ma­clel­lan said. "Peo­ple want­ing to build here and have some sort of busi­ness through the In­ter­net are not able to do that."

"[Delorey and Fraser] said they are con­tin­u­ing to work on cel­lu­lar and broad­band In­ter­net cov­er­age in Antigo­nish County," Ma­clel­lan said. "They un­der­stand the is­sues, and they are try­ing to come up with a sys­tem that will work for ev­ery­one to pro­vide bet­ter service here."

"It’s a prob­lem be­yond the county, it’s a prob­lem through­out Nova Sco­tia, but what we’re con­cen­trat­ing on is the county, specif­i­cally with fund­ing for District #1. We’ve been putting aside fund­ing over three years, with the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments, to try to en­cour­age cell­phone service to be pro­vided more quickly."

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for EMS were un­able to specif­i­cally com­ment on mo­bile cov­er­age in Antigo­nish County, cit­ing a lack of con­crete data to pro­vide an opin­ion on the mat­ter, one way or the other.

How­ever, Der­rick Le­blanc, di­rec­tor of pro­vin­cial pro­grams for EHS, said, "ul­ti­mately, what we’re con­cerned with is any bar­ri­ers to con­tact, with the 911 sys­tem. Ru­ral ar­eas un­der­ser­viced by cel­lu­lar providers would be an is­sue."

"It’s a chal­lenge for peo­ple en­coun­ter­ing emer­gen­cies out­side of a home, and away from a land­line. That’s al­ways a con­cern," Le­blanc added.

Cpl. Jen­nifer Clarke, a me­dia spokesper­son with the RCMP, wrote in an email that the level of cell­phone cov­er­age in any given area isn’t an is­sue for RCMP mem­bers.

Clarke added the Antigo­nish District RCMP "is not af­fected" by the qual­ity of cell cov­er­age in the District #1 area of Antigo­nish County.

She added, "our equip­ment is ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing our po­lice of­fi­cers with ex­cel­lent cov­er­age with re­spect to our po­lice ra­dios and the mo­bile work­sta­tions in our ve­hi­cles, through­out the en­tire coun­try."

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