St. Mary Valley residents seek better telecommunication services

Cell service spotty at best, residents say, and valley is highly used by recreational visitors

St. Mary's Valley residents are raising awareness about lack of cell service.

St. Mary's Valley residents are raising awareness about lack of cell service.

The St. Mary Valley Rural Residents Association is embarking on a campaign to bring awareness to the lack of telecommunications services in the valley.

While the valley is relatively sparsely populated, in terms of recreational use, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people making use of the valley, the group says.

And while increased internet service would be a plus, what is really needed is another cell tower to make sure that some form of communication is dependable, says resident Tim Comishin, who is heading up the campaign.

“We’re not so naive as to believe we’re going to get broadband,” he said. “But better cell service would be nice.”

Cell service in the valley is spotty at best on the main road non-existent on the forest service roads. Comishin says they understand you will never get service once you are back on the forest service roads, but to have reliable cell service, at least to just beyond the lake, would be very helpful.

There are very practical reasons for encouraging telecommunications to be established, the group argues in an introductory letter seeking support, and number one is safety and emergency. Improved telecommunications would allow for  timely communication to attend accidents — home, auto, industrial, climbing, water, avalanche, falls, wayward hikers and more.

There have been many such accidents and or other incidents where a more timely response would have benefited the situation, the letter says.

It will provide political will from the public, police, search and rescue, recreation groups, commercial enterprises, surrounding communities, the tourism industry and others to get this issue some traction, Comishin says, but there are examples of other remote areas in Canada where that kind of lobbying did result in some success.

Currently, the Residents Association is seeking letters of support from some of those groups and then will begin approaching the CRTC through the government of Canada, anc potentially the provincial government.