Nova Scotia announces $47.3 million program to improve spotty cellphone coverage

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Link between climate change and N.S. extreme weather events
The recent flash flooding caused extensive damage in Nova Scotia and added to the damage caused by unprecedented wildfires and last fall’s Hurricane Fiona. Experts are sounding the alarm on disasters caused by climate change – and saying provinces and the federal government must be better prepared. Vanessa Wright has that story – Jul 31, 2023

A $47.3-million program aimed at improving cellular phone service in areas of Nova Scotia without proper coverage is simply the start of a more costly multi-year project, the province’s public works minister says.

Kim Masland told reporters Thursday that she was announcing the initial stage of a “very large” project that will likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars. “It is going to take significant investment, and we are prepared to do that,” the minister said.

Crown corporation Build Nova Scotia is leading the program, which aims to improve cellphone coverage at civic addresses and along roadways. The first phase of the program includes a request for proposal that was issued Thursday seeking innovative and cost-effective technologies and solutions from telecommunications companies.

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Masland said the initial funding would be used for such things as professional fees and to install equipment on existing infrastructure, such as buildings. The second, more expensive, phase will look to close remaining coverage gaps with new infrastructure such as cellphone towers.

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The government also announced an additional $3.3 million to build four new mobile radio towers to expand coverage for first responders in Inverness, Richmond and Queens counties.

Masland said there are more than 21,000 civic addresses without cellular coverage out of the 461,000 addresses in the province.

The lack of cellphone coverage in areas such as the province’s South Shore and the Annapolis Valley was highlighted during flash flooding that hit the province in July, when people were unable to access emergency alerts or use their phones.

“I know how important this is to Nova Scotians,” Masland said. “We saw what we went through in the summer with the climatic events we had. Cell service is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity, and it’s a safety issue.” The goal will be 99 per cent coverage for phone calls across the province, the minister added.

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill welcomed the announcement, saying expanded cellular coverage is something his party has been pushing for.

But NDP Leader Claudia Chender cautioned that any improvements should be done with the idea of making cellphone service “accessible and affordable,” through such things as community-based services. “There are other options, it doesn’t just have to be these big multinationals who have a stranglehold on our telecommunications,” she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2023.


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