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Cell service coming to Ahousaht First Nation

The remote community of Ahousaht near Tofino, B.C., is set to get wireless phone and internet service for the first time, as a Telus cell tower nears completion.

Ahousaht, accessible only by air or boat, is set to get wireless internet and phone service next month for the first time. ( Sterling Eyford/CBC News)

The remote community of Ahousaht near Tofino, B.C., is set to get wireless phone and internet service for the first time, as a Telus cell tower nears completion.

The service is expected to be up and running in December, according to a statement from the company.

“It’s one of 50 First Nations communities that we are connecting all across B.C.,” said Jill Schnarr, vice president of corporate citizenship and communications with Telus. 

Schnarr said the cell tower in Ahousaht is an investment of at least $500,000 from the company.

“It’s going to transform that community. It’s going to drive the local economy. It’s going to enable virtual care access to health applications, because in all likelihood, they don’t have access to the doctors that they need,” she said.

Boon for search and rescue team

Curtis Dick, with Ahousaht Search and Rescue, says cell service will be a great help to the community. 

“For direct contact with any family member we’re dealing with, it is going to be really good,” Dick said. 

Currently, cell phone service is very spotty — something that has proved tricky for hikers who have been lost on the community’s trails. 

The Ahousaht Nation is located nearly 20 kilometres north-northwest of Tofino, on the southeastern tip of Flores Island. It takes roughly 30 minutes to travel there from Tofino by boat.

“We’ll be able to communicate with them all throughout the trail and it’ll be very beneficial [to ping] a direct location to see where they’re at,” he said. 

At the same time, Dick says the way the community currently communicates with each other — via VHF radio — won’t be going away anytime soon.

“That will always remain. That’s our number one source of communication in our community,” he said.

The community was lauded for the role its members played during the rescue response to the Leviathan II whale watching tragedy in October 2015.

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