Manitoba

It was supposed to be an upgrade: Alonsa, Man. residents say cell service all but gone

Six weeks after their cellphone service was "fixed," residents of Alonsa, Man. still have zero bars.

Bell MTS confirms coverage issues after work on towers in early June

A file photo shows a cellphone tower. Upgrades to towers on the west side of Lake Manitoba are causing coverage headaches. (CBC)

Six weeks after their cellphone service was "fixed," residents of Alonsa, Man. still have zero bars. 

Bell MTS scheduled an upgrade to two nearby cell towers in the beginning of June. Instead, the rural community — about 165 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg — lost most of its cell service. 

"Being so rural, it affects just about everything in our RM," said RM of Alonsa Reeve Stan Asham. 

Bell MTS said two LTE wireless sites in nearby Ebb and Flow and Amaranth were recently upgraded and they are aware of the coverage issues in the Alonsa area.

"Our engineers are currently analyzing network data to see what remedies might improve coverage in this area," Bell MTS said in a statement.

Asham says he has some service in his house, but it's not usually enough to have a phone conversation.

Other areas of the municipality have lost all cell service, he says. 

He still has a landline in his house, but that's not the case for many other residents, including much of his council, he said. It's now a lot harder to reach them if he needs to. 

No more landlines

"It's pretty bad, cause a lot of people that were getting good service were just going straight to their cellphone, now they don't even have the phone in the house," he said.

Some residents have to drive up to nine kilometres just to make a phone call, he said. 

Dan Oleschak, who lives in the area, now has to use a signal booster in his house. The booster only works when his phone is close to it.

"I only had cellphone service, I don't have a landline," he said.

I didn't buy a cellphone to have to leave it in the house like a landline.- Dan Oleschak

Oleschak also needs his cellphone for safety during work.

"I'm also a commercial fisherman on Lake Manitoba in the winter time and we really depend on our cell service to communicate back and forth between the different crews.

"If someone runs into problems out there, how do you go and find them?" said Oleschak.

"Our fire department counts on cell service ... our workers, and if we have an emergency anywhere, you know, it's pretty bad," Asham said. 

There's also safety concerns for people who do outdoor activities like boating or snowmobiling. 

"I know I've gotten calls from the lake where guys were having boat problems and I went out and got them and towed them in," said Asham.

"If we don't get it back, I might have to cancel my cell service and put a landline back in the house, I didn't buy a cellphone to have to leave it in the house like a landline," said Oleschak. 

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