THE ART OF CONVERSATION
A tourist’s views on lack of cell coverage in Newfoundland and Labrador
Driving along Newfoundland’s West Coast and Great Northern Peninsula on the way to Labrador, we found Bell Aliant cell service in the bigger towns. But there was no signal at all in our favourite place: L’Anse aux Meadows. Today, its population is around 30, only a third of the population of the Vikings when they spent five years there. We have driven the Trans Labrador Highway Coastal Road, which goes as far north as far as Port Hope Simpson. A couple of the small, southernmost towns have cell reception. In fact, if you drive the Trans Labrador Highway from Port Hope Simpson to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador City, they loan you satellite phones for safety along that long 600-mile stretch of wilderness.
There’s no cell reception on Battle Harbour Island or in Mary’s Harbour from where the Battle Harbour ferry departs. But that lack of coverage adds to the charm. Battle Harbour Island is a living history museum. They have family-style dining where everyone sits at the same long tables. Not having everyone’s eyes glued to their screens makes for an engaging experience. There is a private microwave link for internet service back to their office on the mainland. And they use old-fashioned Magic Jacks for phone service and offer that to guests as well. There is only one area on the island with Wi-Fi for guests.
New cell towers are being built in the coastal towns along the Trans Labrador Highway. There is concern that if a cell tower comes to Mary’s Harbour or St. Lewis, N.L., across the bay, the guests at Battle Harbour would lose themselves in their screens at the dinner table.
While many people want seamless cellphone coverage, the economic reality of sparsely populated areas doesn’t permit it. If you need that coverage, you might be better off moving to Toronto. If you enjoy the area’s natural splendour, then consider poor cell coverage an enhancement of that beauty.
John Henry Low (with hat and gloves) and Matthew Kralt harvesting iceberg ice on a charter vessel in the frigid waters between Battle Harbour Island and Mary’s Harbour, Labrador.