Ottawa Won’t Cover Entire Cost of Bringing Wireless Alerts to Rural Manitoba

Canada’s wireless public alerts system only works for those with an LTE-compatible smartphone within range of an LTE network. For those in rural Manitoba, the cost of bringing coverage won’t be covered entirely by the federal government, explained Canada’s Public Safety Minister.

Last summer, after a tornado hit the town of Alonsa, Manitoba, residents reported inconsistencies when it came to wireless alerts, as the town did not have LTE coverage. One 77-year old resident was killed in the category-EF4 tornado.

In response, Manitoba’s premier Brian Pallister called for assistance from the federal government to upgrade existing networks.

Speaking in a teleconference from Edmonton, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Ottawa will not be paying the entire cost to bring an LTE network to rural Manitoba.

“This [takes] a lot of collaboration,” said Goodale on Friday. “We all have our responsibilities to discharge, with regards to the public alerting system.”

“This is not a federal system; it is a truly comprehensive system where all jurisdictions are involved: municipal, provincial, federal — the private sector is involved,” emphasized Goodale.

The safety minister said residents also need to have newer cellphones to receive wireless alerts.

As for the Manitoba government, it said “We will continue to work with industry, the business community and other levels of government to improve wireless coverage in the province,” citing how Bell MTS upgraded Alonsa’s network after last year’s tornado.

Canada’s wireless public alerts system is not perfect, even in areas of LTE coverage. Last August, when a tornado touched down in Ottawa, Ontario, some residents said they missed alerts, despite being in LTE coverage with a compatible cellphone.

The Alert Ready system launched wireless alerts last April, managed by Pelmorex, the parent company of The Weather Network.

“Nothing is more important than making sure Canadians are informed in a timely matter about an imminent danger such as a tornado, wildfire or Amber Alert when a child’s life is in grave danger. Mandatory distribution of public emergency alert messages on mobile devices will help do just that,” said the CRTC at the time.