RDÉE TNL on CBC Newfoundland Morning

’Towns raise money for a cell phone tower’

CBC Newfoundland Morning
Host, Bernice Hillier
Radio interview with Wendy Brake
Aired May 7, 2019

Link to the interview:
Towns-raise-money-for-a-cell-phone-tower
 
Bernice Hillier: If you travel anywhere in this province, you know the places where you’re going to run out of cell service. You’re talking or texting and then nothing. On the Port au Port peninsula, residents of two towns are tired of not having cell service, people in Mainland and Three Rock Cove are taking matters into their own hands. The local Francophone Economic Development Network is raising money for a cell tower, it even launched a GoFundMe campaign. Wendy Brake is economic development officer with the organization. She joins me on the line this morning. Good morning, Wendy.

Wendy Brake: Good morning.

Bernice: Where did the idea come from to raise money to get a cell tower.

Wendy: I started my role in 2015. And at that time, I planned for community consultations, I was new to the area and wanted to meet residents. And from that meeting, which had a large turnout, it was identified by residents as the number one need of the community.

Bernice: What were people saying about it?

Wendy: They were saying that they needed it for security and safety reasons. They needed it to grow a tourism development in their area, we do have unique offerings, and for quality of life, to keep our youth and to maintain our francophone minority community.

Bernice: So what have you done since 2015, to try to get cell service for that area?

Wendy: I spend a lot of time tracking down representatives from the different businesses, such as Bell and Telus..And since then we did receive a quote that was unattainable for us back in 2016, since there was no funding available at any governmental level. And it was actually April the 30th, 2018, that the provincial government offered a funding to cover 25% of the project. I then went back to Bell Mobility and, with their contribution, we were successful in September 2018 to get some provincial government funding. That now leaves us to cover 15%.

Bernice: So you still have to come up with what, nearly $80,000?

Wendy: Yes.

Bernice: So what have you been doing so far to raise the money?

Wendy: In August, we created a cellular service fundraising committee. So it’s made up of representatives from Mainland and Three Rock Cove, who are leaders in the community, really advocating for this service. And with them and myself, we made a plan, we’ve pumped gas for donations, in Stephenville’s Esso. We have organized talent shows and silent auctions from donations that we were given from local businesses. We’ve approached businesses from across the province, and mainly in Bay St George region for donations. And, I mean, we’ve continued, we’ve done youth dances, we’ve done a New Year’s ball, and it’s kind of been non stop with different fundraising.

Bernice: And you raised close to $50,000 now I understand.

Wendy: We have and that’s been a lot of donations from businesses and the effort from our fundraising committee. And of course, contributions from our local organizations, which has helped.

Bernice: And So we have cell towers in Corner Brook, and I haven’t had to raise money to get those cell towers. What do you think of having to contribute money for cell service for which customers are then going to have to pay?

Wendy: Of course that’s a big question. Unfortunately, for the region, these two communities that have no service at all, there are 501 residents. And unfortunately for Bell and Telus and businesses that offer that service, there’s no business case.

Bernice: No business case, that’s what you’ve been told.

Wendy: Yes. So therefore, you know, we’re strong, we’re a community, a lot of local advocates for the service, so we decided to do this ourselves. And we’re trucking through I mean, since August, we have almost $50,000.

Bernice: How would you say your area is losing out right now? Because it doesn’t have cell service. You mentioned the security and safety. But what about economic development?

Wendy: So there are several things, we have aspiring entrepreneurs in our community that really see the hindrance, to start their business, if they don’t have the communication tools that the majority of the province has.

People looking for work whether inside or outside of our communities, we can’t even create an email address for them in our community, because you are sent a message request by cell phone. So when I’m working with somebody looking for work, we have to meet at another community so that we can get that code and get their email address and their application sent in.

For tourism it’s huge. Mainland really offers a lot for francophone tourism in our province, and certain organizations have been putting in a lot of effort to grow that. But one of the first questions that visitors asked as they enter these tourism operations: “Where can I get cell phone service?” And we are sending them out in our community. If we had that service, we’d have them staying longer and enjoy themselves therefore spreading the word and talking about how awesome our Port au Port peninsula is.

Bernice: How Wendy how soon could people in Mainland and Three Rock Cove get cell service?

Wendy: Ideally, it would be the fall. We do need to come up with our portion. And then it will be in the hands of the business. So it does depend. It could be into next spring. But like I said, it’s difficult to say, it could be as early as the fall.

Bernice: So once you raise the 15%, your share of the cost of setting up the cell tower. Does that mean your obligation is done? The upkeep and the maintenance will be handled by the provider?

Wendy: That’s correct.

Bernice: Ok. Wendy, great to talk to you this morning. I wish you well with these efforts.
Thanks so much.

Wendy: Thank you and please mention our Facebook page, C’est not’ tour! Our turn to connect! We have a website. We have a Go Fund Me. And CBC’s From Inside the Circle will be coming to the Port au Port peninsula and putting up a show. We have tickets on sale locally.

Bernice: Allright. We’ll be sharing that through our social media as well. Thanks so much, Wendy.

Wendy: Thank you.

Bernice: Wendy Brake is economic development officer with the Newfoundland and Labrador Francophone Economic Development Network.