Port Alice from the waterfront on a rainy day. (Zoë Ducklow photo)

Port Alice from the waterfront on a rainy day. (Zoë Ducklow photo)

Port Alice residents not happy with their cell phone carriers

Bad cell service not okay, locals say

Port Alice has a grocery store, health centre, golf course, and 700-some tightly knit locals on a picturesque inlet shrouded in green mountains. It gets black bear and humpback whale visitors regularly.

The population is steady, perhaps even growing, despite recent difficulties with the local economy when the pulp mill closed down. It’s a 45-minute windy drive from Port McNeill.

What it doesn’t have, is great cell phone reception.

You’re breaking up, I didn’t catch that last part, can you say it again?

*crackle* *static* *silence*

Can you hear me now?

*hiss* *crinkle* —call you on— *static* —landline.

Not an uncommon conversation to have with someone in Port Alice. Some locals don’t even bother trying to use their cell phones at home, driving instead to the grocery store parking lot or walking to the end of their street where cell service is slightly stronger.

“If I want to text someone, or use my cellphone at all, I need to take a walk. If I walk to the end of our street I get one bar. Two bars at most on a good day,” said Kathleen Cheetham, a senior who moved to Port Alice from Malcolm Island with her husband in 2019.

She knows that remote life comes with its inconveniences, and welcomes it for the most part. But cell phones are a safety issue.

“If there’s an emergency, once again you’re walking to the end of the road.” What if the person is disabled or injured?

Cheetham pays $90 for one cell phone with data and another $90 for her landline, a hefty chunk for seniors on a fixed income. It feels necessary to have a cell phone for when they leave Port Alice, but the say it’s a lot to pay for a service that’s so often unusable.

Freelancer to the Gazette, Debra Lynn wrote a colourful letter to Telus, sarcastically describing the dance she adds to her “contortion ritual” in the one corner of the living room where her phone sometimes works.

A post in a local Facebook group was immediately swarmed with comments from locals sharing stories and frustration about the poor service. “It sucks….plain and simple. Dropped calls or no calls, straight to voice mail, only works in some places.” … “I got zero bars unless I was outside holding my phone towards the legion.” … “Ours is very hit and miss as well. Certainly can’t count on it.”

It’s not just Telus customers; Rogers operates in the area too, as well as subsidiaries of both like Fido and Koodo. A handful of commenters claimed no issue, but the majority echoed complaints of unreliability.

In 2018 Telus proposed a new cell tower to boost signals, but as Mayor Kevin Cameron recalls, locals were concerned it was too close to the school and the recreation centre. “We’re not sure what effects of all the beams going through the air,” he said. So the proposal was shelved and spotty cell service remained.

Questions had been raised by some locals about whether a new tower was needed at all, or if a few extra receiver disks would do the job. In answer to that, Telus told the Gazette that yes, a new cell tower would be required, and that the company remained “open to exploring opportunities to … enhance wireless services in this community.”

In the years since, the village has acquired a more remote, uphill piece of land and is in the process of asking Telus to re-evaluate the area for a new cell tower.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Internet and Telecom

Just Posted

Ecko Aleck, recipient of $5,000 award for Indigenous entrepreneurs presented by Young Entrepreneurs Symposium. (photo courtesy of Adam Ziorio Photography)
Qualicum Beach woman one of 20 winners in nationwide challenge for Indigenous entrepreneurs

Ecko Aleck plans to create youth council with paid consultation

Tim Mocks, owner of Glenora’s Windhorse Farm, is a member of Regeneration Canada, a group of Canadian farmers who believe the nation’s soil is under threat from inorganic and chemical processes. (Submitted photo)
Vancouver Island farmer giving back to the land, not just taking from it

Regeneration Canada launches initiative to ensure health and sustainability of our food supply

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Vancouver Island Symphony conductor Pierre Simard is releasing his new synthwave album ‘Plandemic’ on March 5. (Photo courtesy Olivia Simard)
Vancouver Island Symphony conductor releasing side-project EP of electronic music

Pierre Simard, recording as Plan Omega, presents ‘Plandemic’

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

One of the approximately 1,200 street lights within the city of Parksville that will be changed to 3000 Kelvin LED under BC Hydro’s Streetlight Replacement Project. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville to go ahead with 3000K streetlights for BC Hydro project

Concerns about excessive brightness and resident privacy raised

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from BC Ferries staff

After Dasher made a dash, staff in Comox found her and got her home safe

LaRae Richards loads an order for deliver via Uber Eats Wednesday afternoon at Red Onion Burgers in Mountlake Terrace on May 17, 2017.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Uber Eats service area expands to Saanich Peninsula

Delivery platform launched in Victoria in 2018

OrcaFest parade 2019. (North Island Gazette file photo)
COVID-19: Port McNeill’s annual OrcaFest cancelled again

“We promise you that once we are safely able to do so, OrcaFest will be back!!”

Matt Simpson at the Chemainus Ball Park where he spent a lot of his development time over the years. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Cool transition to college baseball in Wisconsin for Island ballplayer

Chemainus baseball product anxious to get going after last season lost due to COVID

Most Read