Push for cellphone service on road to Sun Peaks

Local groups say the lack of cell service is not safe and impacts local businesses.

Going off the road and being unable to call for help is a thought that has likely passed through the minds of anyone regularly commuting between Sun Peaks and Kamloops.
For those who live along the increasingly busy thoroughfare of Heffley Louis Creek Road, emergencies like break and enters, assaults or fires may be on the mind.

Much of the road has no cell service and in the case of an accident or emergency, it may be necessary to walk to a nearby home to contact emergency services.

Jim Davies, vice president of the Heffley Lake Community Association said this is not a
safe option.

“If a vehicle leaves the road on this stretch in snowy conditions there is a chance that their only means of contacting help would be their cell phone,” he wrote in a letter to Sun Peaks’ municipal council. “Even if the accident was witnessed, the delay in communication with emergency services can mean a difference between life and death.”

The association has been encouraging Telus to add coverage to the area since last year.
Liz Suave, Telus spokesperson, said they have heard the demand from the community and will continue to assess adding service in the area.

She said building infrastructure would be costly. When they assess a new area, she said, they look for access to consistent power, connection to the Telus network and
resident demand.

The association has received letters of support from the Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality, MP Cathy McLeod, MLA Terry Lake and Mel Rothenburger of the Thompson Nicola Regional District. Other organizations such as the Whitecroft Community Association and the Kamloops Indian Band have also given support.

The Tk’emlups Rural RCMP department also gave their support to the cause. They were dispatched to 10 collisions on Heffley Louis Creek Road and 22 at Sun Peaks between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2016 Sergeant Doug Aird said.

But collisions only account for less than 20 per cent of total calls in the area.

“It works out to at least one (call) per day between Heffley and Sun Peaks, so cell service through the whole area would provide better emergency services and response times for police, fire and ambulance,” said Aird.

Davies said the lack of coverage in the valley also has a negative impact on business
and recreation.

He said accommodation and recreation businesses suffer without connection as guests will choose operators who are located in areas where they can stay connected. He also pointed to a number of recreation areas such as the campsite on Heffley Lake where emergency responsders or services can’t be contacted.