British Columbia

Rings and pings: B.C. village celebrates cell service arrival

A tiny B.C. town is celebrating the arrival of cell service.

'Suddenly the world's a lot busier'

Edmonton police say they have had three reports of SIM swapping but believe there could be more people who have fallen victim to this sort of crime. (Topperest/Shutterstock)

A tiny B.C. town is celebrating the arrival of cell service.

Port Clements, population 280, lobbied for years to get coverage.

Now, the cell tower is up and the signal is strong in the village on Haida Gwaii.

Telus, which spent half a million dollars to provide the infrastructure, says it's part of its commitment to invest 4.7 billion throughout British Columbia between 2017 and 2020.

"We got cell service!" proclaimed Cyndi Bird as she spent her first morning exploring text messages, voice mail, and three bars of service.

'Suddenly, the world's a lot busier'

"My husband's cell phone rang and then you called," Bird told a CBC reporter. "Suddenly the world's a lot busier!" 

Aaron Cunningham's neighbours were also celebrating the village's brand new cell service.

"People were literally sitting on their couch, and text messages started coming in pretty quick," said Cunningham. "And what do you know? There's three bars of service!'  

Below Port Clements' cellphone tower, Ruby Decock tries out her phone on the first day of cell service. (Alex Rinfret)

Tsunami warnings and rescue calls

Cunningham doesn't have a cell phone, but now he plans to buy one.  He said it will mean a quicker response time when he's called out as a Search and Rescue volunteer. 

Tsunami warnings will also arrive more quickly for people in Port Clements.

And Bird says she'll feel more secure while out on horseback rides, if she's within cell range.

"It's a safety thing," Bird said."If I get bucked off, someone can come rescue me."

Bird also expects cell service will transform her home-based granola business and Airbnb rental.

"I can send them out to the world and actually communicate with people interested in what I have to offer," said Bird. 

Neighbouring communities on Haida Gwaii have had cell service for more than a decade.

But Port Clements was in the dead zone until this week.

"Most towns in the real world have cell service," said Cunningham.

About the Author

Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener is an award-winning journalist and author. She's been covering the news in central and northern British Columbia for more than 15 years.

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