September 24, 2018 6:31 pm

Manitoba cell phone dead zone gets towers after years of community pressure

File / Global News

The communities are only about an hour from Winnipeg, but they’ve been with spotty cell phone service almost a decade.

Bell MTS announced that the the rural community of Woodridge will have a working cell tower next week while the municipalities of Zhoda and Stuartburn will get theirs in 2019.

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Back in 2011, wildfires threatened the community of Marchand. With poor cell phone service, the firefighters couldn’t communicate. One fire chief even told Global News at the time that he was forced to break into a store to use the landline.

WATCH: Poor cellular service hampers fire fighting effort

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After those fires, the reeves from the surrounding communities banded together to push telecommunications companies and the government to get better cell phone coverage for the communities near the American border.

Jim Swidersky, the Reeve of the RM of Stuartburn, said he’s been working tirelessly to bring good cell service to the areas along Hwy. 12 and 59.

“Seven years ago the southeast was literally on fire everywhere. The controlled wildfire caused havoc,” he said. “We worked very hard through and through.”

READ MORE: Manitoba municipality residents suddenly thrust into cell phone dead zone

Premier Brian Pallister said the increased cell service will increase safety.

“We all know of examples where people have been put in dangerous positions because of a lack of ability to communicate during emergencies. We’re familiar with those. We don’t ever want to see that happen again,” he said.

The towers are all part of the $1 billion in infrastructure investments made since Bell acquired MTS back in 2017.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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