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Boreal Community Media

'It's About Time': Red Cliff Community Highlights Need for Cell Phone Tower

Sep 22, 2018 04:24AM ● By Editor

By Ryan Juntti of WDIO-TV - September 21, 2018

The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is currently in the planning process to build a cell phone tower along Highway 13 on the reservation.

As it stands right now, less than 20 percent of the reservation is currently covered by cell phone service. 

Community members say it's time to do something about it.

What started out as a family kayaking trip near the Apostle Islands ended with the death of a father and his three children.

The mother and wife had tried to text for help, but it took four and a half hours for the message to go through due to poor cell phone service.

This incident highlights the need for better coverage in the region. 

“For Years, Red Cliff has been trying to improve cellular communications out of fear for tragedies like the one that just happened for the Fryman family. Our hearts and prayers go out to them. It is our hope that if this cell tower project is successful, it will be a huge step in preventing future tragedies from happening again,” Tribal Chairman Richard A. Peterson said in a statement. 

Community members say the need for the tower is long overdue. 

"This is a good thing, and with that kind of technology, it would make it so much easier for the first responders to get to where they need to," said Anna Hanson, a Red Cliff Tribal Member.

Theron Rutyna, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa IT Director, says they have been trying to build a tower for the past 15 years, something Hanson is welcoming.

"It's been a long time in the making, and it would make everything much more better being out here way out north tip of Lake Superior before we hit the water where the cell service is spotty," said Hanson.

And even tourists that come through the area see the need for change as well.

"When I come here I can't drive on Highway 13 at night because there's too little traffic, and there's no cell phone service, no reliable service, and if a hit a deer, and if it's a bad accident, who knows how long it would be before someone would come along," said Alan Ingram, who has a summer home in Bayfield.

But Ingram acknowledges he would feel better with a new tower as would a lot of the community Eyewitness News spoke to. 

The tower will cover all of the reservation, parts of the town of Russell, parts of the Apostle Islands north and east of the reservation, and parts of both Madeline and Michigan islands.

The tribe hopes to have the project completed by the end of 2019.

At this point the cost is undetermined.

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