Access to Mobile Wireless (Cellular) Services
IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT Alberta Municipalities engage the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to address the lack of reliable cellular network coverage for mobile wireless (cellular) service.
WHEREAS Albertans rely on mobile wireless (cellular) services to conduct business activities, for personal use, and in emergency situations;
WHEREAS the Telecommunications Act affirms that the Canadian telecommunications policy has an objective “to render reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural regions in all regions of Canada”;
WHEREAS the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) made access to mobile wireless voice and internet services part of a nation-wide service objective for telecommunications services in 2016;
WHEREAS the CRTC has a target of 100% of all Canadian households having access to the latest generally deployed mobile wireless technology (currently defined as long-term evolution [LTE]) by December 2026; and
WHEREAS despite CRTC reporting that more than 99% of all Albertans have access to cellular services, many Albertans outside of major urban centres do not have access to reliable cellular network coverage; and
WHEREAS access to landlines and high-speed internet is challenging in rural and remote areas which further increases the importance of reliable mobile wireless (cellular) services;
This resolution was adopted at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) Spring 2023 Conference. Alberta Municipalities Board recognizes that many of our members also experience challenges with access to wireless internet and there is an opportunity for ABmunis and RMA to collaborate in advocating for improved coverage.
There are several telecommunications providers offering mobile wireless voice and internet services. Despite telecommunications providers offering services, there are areas throughout the province that do not have reliable cellular network coverage.
The lack of reliable cellular network coverage is experienced by residents and businesses in remote municipalities that are at a distance from the higher populated urban centers.
Residents and business owners alike have raised concerns about their ability to operate their businesses due to challenges with telecommunications. Today many residents and businesses in rural Alberta are not being serviced by landlines or being refused service. Therefore, reliance on mobile wireless (cellular) services becomes their only option. However, when a business must rely on high spots on the property to receive and send cellular calls it makes it difficult for business owners to operate and grow their business.
Even more importantly, emergency situations require reliable cellular network coverage. Rural and remote areas are at risk of emergency situations becoming critical when there is no access to 911.
The CRTC provides reports on “Major Roads With & Without LTE Services” that support cellular networks. Most major roads in Alberta are identified by the CRTC as having LTE service. However, the data does not accurately reflect the reliability of the service. For example, Highway 18 is marked as having LTE service, however there is a location between Barrhead and Westlock with no cellular access or a dead spot. The same is true on Highway 33 between areas heading west to Swan Hills and south to Edmonton (marked in yellow on map below).
CRT also reports on “LTE Service Coverage Areas.” The area encompassing the County of Barrhead is shown as fully covered by two facility-based networks, however there are several areas within the County of Barrhead that are three-digit highways and local roads that do not have reliable coverage and experience dead spots. According to the map, the Village of Heisler also does not have LTE service along Highway 855. These dead spots occur from no coverage by service providers, no cellular signal or lack of towers.
CRTC reports do not reflect the reality on the ground in rural and remote Alberta with respect to mobile wireless (cellular) services. As a result, the lack of attention and investment leaves rural Alberta underserved which limits economic growth from many perspectives and potentially increases risk to life and property by negatively impacting emergency response.