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Cell service coming for Hanson Lake Road, northern communities: SaskTel

At long last, cell service may be finally coming for Saskatchewan Highway 106 - the Hanson Lake Road - thanks to SaskTel and a federal government grant.
The top of a cellular tower.

At long last, cell service may be finally coming for Saskatchewan Highway 106 - the Hanson Lake Road - thanks to SaskTel and a federal government grant.

Federal rural economic development minister Gudie Hutchings announced the new funding in La Ronge June 3, through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. Through the grant, the federal government will provide up to $160 million to improve cell service and internet in Saskatchewan, including up to $105 to SaskTel for work in northern and remote areas, particularly for Indigenous communities.

Part of that will include building cell towers along the Hanson Lake Road and delivering infiNET internet service in Ballantyne Bay, Cumberland House, Deschambault Lake, Jan Lake, Pemmican Portage and Tyrrell Lake.

About $20 million of the total $105 million price tag will be dedicated to providing internet to Ballantyne Bay, Deschambault Lake, Jan Lake and Tyrrell Lake. Just under $10 million will be dedicated to providing cell service for the area around the Hanson Lake Road and nearby communities, stretching as far west as Candle Lake. The service plans will go as far east as Tyrrell Lake, about 20 kilometres from Creighton and not far from where drivers currently first get service when driving to Creighton.

The whole project is estimated to be completed by March 2027, according to the federal government - the specific parts including Hanson Lake Road connectivity and increased internet service for nearby communities have an estimated completion date of December 2026.

The federal government estimates the project will cover up to an estimated 5,700 households - along with other grants to different companies for other underserved areas in southern Saskatchewan, thousands more people will now have cell and internet service.

“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury. The federal funding committed today will bring reliable high-speed internet to up to 13,700 underserved homes in communities across Saskatchewan and provide mobile connectivity along 500 kilometres of roads,” said Hutchings.

“It is only fair that communities large and small have a reliable connection so they can grow their potential in this digital world.”

“Access to reliable high-speed internet service empowers people in urban, rural and northern communities by offering vital connections to education, health care, economic opportunities and family and friends. The government of Saskatchewan is committed to ensuring that every corner of our province has access to the tools and technologies needed to thrive in the digital age,” said Saskatchewan MLA Jim Lemaigre, who represents the Athabasca riding covering northwest Saskatchewan.

“I thank the government of Canada for this funding, which will accelerate and enhance the more than $1 billion in investments that SaskTel is continuing to make to connect more than 225 communities and 85 per cent of Saskatchewan homes to lightning-fast fibre Internet service.”

SaskTel also plans to build towers in other remote areas, including Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation and Turnor Lake, each located about 100 kilometres west of Meadow Lake near the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, as well as Birch Narrows First Nation, located north of Buffalo Narrows.

The Hanson Lake Road is currently a complete dead zone for most cell phones and electronics along most of its 330-kilometre length. According to current SaskTel coverage maps, there is no cell service on the road from about 20 kilometres past Smeaton to about 15-20 kilometres from Creighton, leaving almost 300 kilometres of road where drivers cannot call for help in case of breakdowns or accidents. The dead zone is the longest such space along a paved provincial highway anywhere in Saskatchewan.

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