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Village in Haida Gwaii receives cell phone service for the first time ever

Port Clements in Haida Gwaii now has cell phone service for the first time ever.
Port Clements in Haida Gwaii now has cell phone service for the first time ever. Northern Development Initiative Trust

“It’s brought us into the 21st century.”

Port Clements mayor Doug Daugert is ecstatic that his tiny Haida Gwaii village, population less than 300, finally has cell phone service.

Daugert said the town lobbied for years for Telus to build a tower so the town could access the network.

“And this is my good news story: I was out at my cabin on Kunghit Island and I could talk to the village office on the telephone. It was great. Gave me an access that I hadn’t had before,” Daugert said.

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The biggest impact on the town will be improved safety, according to Daugert. People will be able to get in touch with emergency services like search and rescue much more quickly.

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“Paramedics that are on call might be around in the village and it might take 10 minutes or so to track them down, even though they would have left forwarding numbers and so on,” Daugert said.

“It just added to the factors in time when there was some emergency situations. It basically just makes it safer for everybody. Auto accidents happened on the road and people couldn’t phone for the ambulance.”

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Daugert said business in the village will also benefit.

“It was very difficult for a lot of the businesses in town. People would come to town, they’d look around — and if they didn’t have cell service, they didn’t want to stay here. They wanted to stay someplace where they could remain in contact, whether with business or family,” he said.

“When you’re in small service businesses, your customers now expect you to be on call. And we weren’t. And it’s not acceptable anymore.”

Daugert said it’s taken so long for Port Clements to get service because building a cell phone tower is an expensive project. With around 300 residents, Daugert doubted Telus would recover the costs within 10 years.

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Daugert said Telus has taken on the financial responsibility of the actual tower and associated costs, and Port Clements gave it a good deal on the lease.