Town bidding for cellular service

Local cellular phone service from Rainy River to Bear’s Pass could soon be a reality–and one which could reap a large amount of revenue for Fort Frances.
For the last six months, the local Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has looked into the feasibility of bringing cellular service to the area.
Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, who sits on the PUC, said their consultant already has started to put the gears in motion by submitting a proposal to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
“It’s a service that is needed,” the mayor stressed yesterday. “There is a petition throughout town. There were pages and pages of people who wanted local cellular service.”
“The motivating reason is there seems to be a demand on this,” echoed PUC member Larry Cousineau. “It’s something we hope will work out.”
Although the final report isn’t finished yet, Mayor Witherspoon said enough of the feasibility study has been completed to show the $500,000 to $1 million cost it would take to start up a cellular service could be made back in less than five years.
“The figures were very favourable to go forward,” he added. “By installing towers in key areas, we could make a lot of money on roaming charges.”
Right now, people in Fort Frances can purchase cellular service from International Falls but have to incur long-distance charges whenever dialing into Canada.
The American cellular service also lacks the range many want, especially when moving north of Highway 11.
Cousineau said the hope right now is the service would have a far northern boundary. Mayor Witherspoon added ideally they would like to see a person travelling as far north as Morson still be within cellular range.
“People have a party-line problem in the country, too, which they could get away from with this,” Cousineau noted.
Mayor Witherspoon said there had to be one more meeting with the consultant and one more with the PUC before bringing the proposal to town council. But he anticipated little difficulty getting approval from council.
“We have the work force, we have the technology,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of getting the CRTC’s blessing and some capital dollars.”