Cell phone users between Sooke and Port Renfrew are benefiting from improved service with the installation of seven new cellular towers along Highway 14, according to Rogers Communications.
The telecommunications giant says five cellular towers are already in service, and two more are on track to be operational by spring 2023 to provide seamless 5G coverage along the 70-kilometre route popular for Vancouver Island commuters.
The improvements aim to increase safety for travellers and residents “while enabling people to connect with each other in a way they have never been able to before on that stretch of highway,” the B.C. government said when announcing the project in April 2021.
Provincial officials say more than 1,200 locals will benefit from the cell towers, which also prove vital to people responding to emergencies, notes Ron McKenzie, chief technology and information officer at Rogers.
“We are proud to light up service along this stretch of Highway 14 as we work to improve wireless connectivity for drivers and emergency responders,” said McKenzie in a news release.
“This is an important milestone as we continue investing in Western Canada to provide more seamless high-speed connectivity to fuel economic development in local Indigenous, remote and rural communities.”
Rogers says up to $4.9 million in funding from Connecting British Columbia, a program that pays for infrastructure required to deliver high-speed internet to rural and remote areas, is helping fund the cell towers.
As part of the project, a wi-fi hotspot was also installed at the Sombrio Rest Area, near Sombrio Beach, offering “essential connectivity to those who live, work and visit in this area of Vancouver Island,” according to the company.
“Knowing there is reliable cellular service along our highways makes driving safer and more relaxing for commercial and recreational travellers alike,” said Lisa Beare, minister of Citizens’ Services, in the release.
“Investments in cellular connectivity along B.C. highways is one of the best ways to ensure safety for British Columbians while on the road. With five towers complete and live, people can have a bit more peace of mind while they travel on Highway 14, and we look forward to marking the completion of all seven towers.”
Rogers says it’s been working with all levels of government to make network and innovation investments throughout the province, including along other routes like Highway 4. That’s where six new cellular towers were installed, improving service on the only highway connecting Port Alberni with Ucluelet and Tofino.