FORT ST. JOHN, B.C.– The Alaska Highway in the Fort Nelson area—notorious for poor cell service—will see the addition of five roadside emergency call boxes that increase access to 911 emergency service for travelers.

Though the province and federal government are working to expand connectivity in remote and northern reaches of the province this project, according to minister of citizen services Lisa Beare, is an immediate solution.

“This is a solution for right now while bigger services are being rolled out,” she said.

While there is work being done for high-speed broadband internet access in the region, Beare said, public safety on the remote road is important.

“People need to feel safe traveling that corridor right now. So it’s vitally important that we expand access to 911 emergency services.”

The call boxes will sit at designated pull-outs along the Alaska Highway between Prophet River and the Yukon border, where no cell service is available. The sites include one just south of Fort Nelson, one at Stone Mountain Provincial Park; another north of Toad River; one across from Liard River Hotsprings provincial park; and the last north of the community of Fireside.

The strategy for the locations of the boxes, Beare said, was determined by the Northern Rockies Municipality, whom she called the “experts on the ground.”

The weatherproof boxes will house solar-powered satellite phones programmed to access 911 services dispatched through Grande Prairie. 

Gary Foster, mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, called the project an “innovative, cost-effective solution.”

“Moving forward, we will continue working with telecom service providers, Indigenous communities and other levels of government to encourage the rapid expansion of cell and broadband infrastructure in the Northern Rockies because we know how important this is to growing our economy, supporting tourism and improving access to health care,” the statement continued.

The province contributed $107,000 to the project through the Connecting British Columbia program, administered by the Northern Development Initiative Trust. The project itself carries a $122,000 price tag, with $15,000 contributed by the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.

Last March, the province and federal governments partnered to provide up to $830 million to expand high-speed internet services to First Nations and underserved communities—several of which line the Alaska Highway.

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Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for EnergeticCity.ca who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.