Efforts to improve rural cell coverage

Local News

A little more than nine months ago,  a major train derailment in our region forced about 1,000 people from their homes.Fifteen of the 33 rail cars, off the tracks in Hyndman, Bedford County, contained hazardous materials. 

A one-call system that went through landlines alerted  Hyndman residents to evacuate when the derailment occurred. First responders also had to go door-to-door to make sure everyone had left. But problems with cell phone service made it difficult to alert everyone.

Bedford County Emergency Management Director David Cubbison says the same situation could occur in the event of another derailment involving hazardous materials…

“Since August we’ve had 2, actually 3 derailments. Only the August one was the one where the spill occurred and fire, the other two were smaller and not as not as devastating to the community,” he says.

Cubbison says while broadband would solve communication through Hyndman and other rural areas  the mountains , valleys, and rivers make that  solution too expensive.

However, he’s heard there’s progress in efforts to  provide better cell service in the Southern Bedford County.

“I  think there’s probably going to be some movement very soon, I’m not sure of the details there are rumors in the wind about something beginning but it’s not been addressed directly with me,  as far as of anything has been found,” he says.

Cubbison says the solution will have to include both government and private industry, with government offering incentives to encourage industry participation, and companies stepping up to help provide the coverage.

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