After concerns raised, Telus says North Island payphones will be replaced

After concerns raised, Telus says North Island payphones will be replaced
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It’s one of many areas on Vancouver Island where cell service isn’t available.

Yet the few payphones in the area near Sayward, said to be a lifeline in case of an emergency, were set to be removed by Telus.

For those who have run into an emergency in the no-cell zone between Campbell River and Sayward, there’s one payphone at Robert’s Lake, where you’ve always been able to call for help.

But it’s slated to be removed on May 13, according to a notice inside the booth.

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payphones notice Robert's Lake

(The posted notice had no mention that the Robert’s Lake payphone would be replaced.)

Lorna Duncan, who’s owned the Robert’s Lake Resort for 46 years, says she knows firsthand how critical the payphone has been.

“Lots of times, if there was an accident, maybe the next vehicle coming along would come back and use this telephone,” she said.

Duncan says a fire in August of 2016 that was 25 kilometres north of Campbell River was called in from this payphone. She’s calling for the phone to remain.

“Either get cell service or either leave the phone there for emergency purposes,” said Duncan.

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Thirty kilometres north at the Sayward junction, it’s a similar situation — very spotty cell service and a payphone, though in a rather unique phone booth maintained by the Sayward Valley Resort.

It, too, has a notice saying it will be removed in June, although it’s been out of service for close to six months now.

The resort’s owner is also Sayward’s fire chief.

“Anybody who has an accident in the upper part of our area, it’s going to take someone to drive down to here to be able to use a phone to get the emergency services, and then it takes us that much time to get ready and get back all the way up to where the thing is,” said Frank Morgan, fire chief of the Sayward Volunteer Fire Department.

He’s calling on Telus to provide cell service to the Sayward Junction.

“In the meantime, this is the lifeline for a lot of people,” said Morgan.

After a request to Telus for comment, it looks like both of those lifelines will remain.

In a statement, Telus says it works to ensure alternate options are within a reasonable distance before a payphone is removed.

The statement goes on to say that while Telus is hanging up on the payphones, it will replace the one at Robert’s Lake and the one in Sayward Valley with community phones that will have 911 service and free calling throughout B.C.

They also hint that cell phone coverage will be coming to the area, it’s just unclear how soon.

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Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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