CELL COV­ER­AGE

The Southern Gazette - - Front Page -

His young driv­ers es­pe­cially rely on their phones. It’s a com­mu­nity is­sue, too, he says. Lately, younger peo­ple have been re­turn­ing to the is­land.

“They are older and wiser and want to set­tle into some­thing closer to home,” he says. “Good cell ser­vice is some­thing they ex­pect.

BUILD­ING A MODEL

Colin Cor­co­ran, a char­tered pro­fes­sional ac­coun­tant who is di­rec­tor of fi­nance at the Ge­n­e­sis Cen­tre at Memo­rial Univer­sity, used to own the Keltic Knot restau­rant in St. Mary’s Bay on the Irish Loop. The re­gion in­cludes four towns and a to­tal of 13 com­mu­ni­ties.

“Tourists on their cell­phones came in try­ing to catch a few bars,” he says. “When they can’t use Google Maps and Trip Ad­vi­sor, they fi­nally look up from their phones. We are not a di­ver­si­fied econ­omy. We need to help the tourism sec­tor. We are com­pet­ing in the global mar­ket.”

The so­lu­tion came from a so­cial enterprise, SMB Con­nect. As a pri­vate com­pany, Bell Aliant couldn’t jus­tify the ex­pense, says Cor­co­ran.

“We came up with a busi­ness case and the fi­nan­cial model that shared the cost among the car­rier, the prov­ince and the com­mu­nity. It was a cre­ative way to deal with an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is­sue.”

The re­sult was a $1.1-mil­lion in­fra­struc­ture deal for St. Mary’s Bay, with Bell pay­ing 50 per cent and the prov­ince and the com­mu­nity pay­ing 25 per cent apiece.

The back­drop is the chang­ing fab­ric of the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing the econ­omy and de­mo­graph­ics.

“When I ran the bar, I would talk to young fel­lows who said they would like to move home,” says Cor­co­ran. “A large per cent

fly in and fly out. They would like to move back. We all ro­man­ti­cize our con­nec­tion to ‘the Rock.’”

This is the only way for ru­ral re­gions to suc­ceed, he says.

“We wrapped the model in a so­cial enterprise, where there is the triple bot­tom line of profit,

and also ben­e­fits for so­ci­ety and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

The Cel­lu­lar Ser­vice Pi­lot Project, as it is called, reached more than 12,000 peo­ple. The Depart­ment of Tourism, Cul­ture, In­dus­try and In­no­va­tion is ex­tend­ing the pi­lot ini­tia­tive in 2019-20. Dur­ing the 2019

pro­vin­cial elec­tion, the Lib­eral party com­mit­ted to en­hanc­ing cell­phone cov­er­age across most of New­found­land and Labrador.

Bell’s part­ner­ships to date with the Govern­ment of New­found­land and Labrador’s cel­lu­lar ser­vice pi­lot project in­clude

the com­mu­ni­ties of Main­land and Three Rock Cove, sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties on the Great North­ern Penin­sula, in St. Mary’s Bay and South­ern Labrador, as well as King’s Point, Pouch Cove and Lord’s Cove.

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