I’ve spent some time over the last few weeks up near Mt. Baker, in a rural part of Washington. Isolated, but near a ski resort, this area caters to fast-driving college kids from nearby Bellingham and Vancouver. The two lane twisty road gets icy and it isn’t uncommon to see cars in the ditch, precariously close to the 30-50 foot drops to the icy river below. If you get in an accident up here, you better hope someone stops because your trusty blackberry isn’t going to help you here. There is no cell service.
My question is, why? Why isn’t there cell service in these spots? This is a state highway, 30 miles from a town of 70,000 people and there is no cell reception? Is this level of service really cost prohibitive? How far do cell towers broadcast in rural areas where signals have trees and mountains to contend with and, roughly, how much does a cell tower cost the carrier on average?
The truth is, cell phones aren’t just a luxury anymore. For many, a cell phone is their only means of calling 911 or reaching family in the case of an emergency.
Is this a problem of being cost prohibitive for any single carrier to build out their proprietary networks? Could the rural cell towers create some sort of generic network so all carriers can use the same hardware, then the equipment could be subsided by government for rural locations?
It’s time for government and the cell carriers to come together to increase cell coverage in rural locations, landline use is declining and the telecom industry needs to wake up and smell the 3G.