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Cell phone service expansion east being accelerated

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Cellular phone service between Fort Frances and Atikokan should be up and running as early as June after provincial funding finally came through.

And service could be extended all the way to Thunder Bay by the end of the year.

After being granted $1.75 million by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. last summer, Northwest Mobility has been sitting back waiting for the province’s rubber stamp.

Now that’s been done—and installation of the cell phone network can now begin, with three towers slated to be built between here and Atikokan as soon as the frost is out of the ground.

“The big news is that we’re continuing east,” Northwest Mobility chairman Doug McCaig said. “What it does is get both parties off the ground.

“I’m personally very happy. This is a money-making deal. We’ll get the money paid back and then we’ll make money,” he enthused.

The new towers will lengthen the corridor which already extends east of Fort Frances to Rainy River and all north to Sioux Narrows.

In just over two months, the number of cell phone users in this area already has far exceeded Northwest Mobility’s projected target of 1,500 within three years.

“We have in excess of 1,300 right now. It looks like the business plan will be shorter than expected because more people are using cell phones,” said McCaig.

And as the number of subscribers continues to increase, members of Northwest Mobility—including Fort Frances, Atikokan, and Thunder Bay Telephone—are confident this will be a money-making venture as well as an all-round benefit to the communities.

“It’s great. It’s increased safety in the community, mobility in the community, and productivity in the community,” said board member Geoff Gillon.

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