Cell service added along portion of Highway of Tears

Jinny Simms
Jinny Simms

Witset, formerly the Moricetown Band, the only First Nation without cellular service along Highway 16, will soon have access to new wireless coverages.

“This new cell tower will make it much easier for people to call for help during an emergency and is another essential element to further improve safety along Highway 16,” said Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens’ Services, in a press release. “Expanded cellular connectivity, along with the new affordable and reliable BC Bus North service and additional Wi-Fi for many provincial highway rest stops, are making B.C. a safer place to live, work and travel.”

This project will result in continuous network coverage from New Hazelton to Smithers. It will benefit not only Witset First Nation, but also residents in the Smithers-New Hazelton corridor, as well as commercial and personal traffic along Highway 16. After the Rogers cell tower is in service, every Indigenous community along the Highway of Tears will have access to modern cellular connectivity. Approximately 900 people in Witset First Nation and 5,000 Smithers-and-area residents will benefit from improved cell service.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Witset First Nation, Rogers Communications, Northern Development Initiative Trust and the Province of B.C.

“In addition to being a critical lifeline during an emergency, cell service will help improve people’s access to education, employment and health-care services,” said Chief Victor Jim. “Our nation is excited for the benefits that cellular service will unlock, especially in regards to the safety of the highway.”

Construction of the Rogers cell tower began in late September 2018 and is expected to be completed in the coming months. When operational, the cell tower will enable voice, data and text services via high-speed wireless and internet coverage on 4G and LTE networks for Rogers and Fido customers. Customers using other providers will be able to dial 911 in the community and along the highway.

Up to six local jobs will be created during construction of the cell tower.