This provincial community is attempting to catch the global wave of technology.
From hooking up homes with fibre-optic cable for faster internet connections, to having the only Bitcoin ATM in the northwest. Now, the city is planning to join a network of charging stations for electric cars linking Prince Rupert to Kamloops.
Great idea, but before jumping into head high surf, as a region we need to start with the basics — cell phone service.
Dale Littlejohn, executive director of Community Energy Association said it best: “The north has not been prioritized by the province of B.C. for electrification. The province is putting most of its funds into the southern network,” he said in his presentation to the North Coast Regional District on Friday, Dec. 8.
Replace “electrification” with “mobile service”.
Cell coverage along Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Terrace is spotty and often non-existent. The 140km stretch — which was recently closed overnight due to avalanche warnings, and where accidents aren’t uncommon in winter months with black ice — lacks consistent coverage.
If you get into an accident along this route, you’d better hope that someone witnessed it because it’s likely there will be no way to call for help.
Smithers and Houston received 13km of additional cell coverage along Highway 16 in 2016 as part of a Telus agreement with the provincial government to add 1,700km of service to B.C. highways. Telus added more coverage in 2014 outside Rupert, with a promise of adding more in the “coming years”.
Back to electric cars and electrification of rural communities. It’s not that we shouldn’t pursue charging stations, it’s just that we need to remember that we’ll still need to make that call if the charge runs out in between Rupert and Terrace.
As Prince Rupert aims to be a more tech-savvy community, let’s take a step back and remember we’re still waiting for promises from three years ago to become a reality.