THE ART OF CON­VER­SA­TION

A tourist’s views on lack of cell cov­er­age in New­found­land and Labrador

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - JOHN HENRY LOW

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED

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.

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