Talkative Waswanipi residents received good news recently. Cell phones will no longer die a slow death once travelers or members of the community get to the little town.
Norm Kelly of Telebec explains: “Waswanipi was supposed to receive cellular service in the second quarter of 2005 and I brought it up to the last quarter of 2004.” The project cost Telebec $300,000 and will be available to the community in the first week of November.
“My role is to try to bring cellular service into the Cree communities,” Kelly adds. “Waswanipi is a community that is expanding very, very rapidly. With the availability of cells phones, it will create closer communications within families and within the business part of the organization.”
Last spring, Mistissini became the first Cree community to receive cell phone service. The president of Telebec, Roch Dubé, was on hand June 3 to commemorate this historic event. Telebec signed an agreement with Cree Sports to distribute the cell phones within the community.
“Sales have been pretty good,” said David Iserhoff, manager of Cree Sports in Mistissini. “We’ve sold 300-350 phones since June 3rd. We keep ordering them, but they sell out very fast.”
Kelly is hopeful that a similar deal can be worked out in Waswanipi.
“What’s nice is we have the traffic going from Val d’Or to Chibougamau as well as the demand in the community [for cell phones],” said Kelly. “When we put the both together it was feasible to invest.”
Kelly also mentioned that Telebec is looking ahead in hopes of bringing cell phone service to the rest of the Eeyou Istchee as soon as they can.