Rogers Communications has begun constructing its first cellular tower site in Seaton, near Witset (Moricetown), after the province announced a collaboration with the telecom giant in April to improve connectivity and close cell gaps along Highway 16.
As part of the project, Rogers will set up 12 new cellular towers by fall 2022 along the stretch of Hwy 16 from Prince George to Prince Rupert.
The project will provide 252 kilometres of new highway cellular coverage, closing several gaps along the 720 kilometre corridor. Rogers will also provide coverage to three provincial highway rest stops at Boulder Creek, Basalt Creek and Sanderson Point.
“At Rogers, we are deeply committed to reconciliation and to using our technology to help connect rural, remote and Indigenous communities,” said Jorge Fernandes, chief technology officer, in a statement.
The $11.6 million project which is a collaboration between Rogers, federal government and Province of B.C., was welcomed by most owing to the route’s infamous reputation of being the Highway of Tears.
Bridging the gaps of cellular connectivity was one of the 33 recommendations in the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium report due to the high number of women that have gone missing or have been murdered along this northwestern route.
“It means the world to me and our women to connect with others and keep in touch, especially on this highway – anything can happen at any given time,” said Gladys Radek, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) activist.
“This tower and project will bring a lifeline to all of us who travel along Highway 16 regularly and will bring a sense of safety and security that will help us prevent future tragedies.”
As part of this project, Rogers also commissioned two totem poles carved by Mike Dangeli to be placed at each end of Hwy 16, in Prince Rupert and Prince George.