Some Strait area residents have not only been left without power for prolonged periods of time during inclement weather, but also phone service.
On Christmas day, 14,564 people in the Strait area were left without juice due to a winter storm. On January 4, a second storm took place that knocked out power to 280,000 Nova Scotia Power customers across the province.
But Kate MacLean of Marble Mountain said residents of her area are unable to use their phones when the power goes out.
During outages, Bell Aliant’s landline phone service is backed-up by battery packs. On Christmas Day, during a power outage that affected many local communities, dial tones also disappeared.
MacLean maintains this is a problem that has been going on for five or six years. On December 26, she placed her first phone call to Bell Aliant. A second call was placed the next day only to find out that nothing had been done.
MacLean said the loss of phone service was a contributing factor in her grandparents’ decision to move out of the community.
The lack of landline phones is dangerous because MacLean said they are unable to contact emergency responders during these times.
Marc Choma, Bell Aliant’s director of communications, confirmed there were problems with phone service in Marble Mountain, and they dispatched technicians to the area on the week of December 25-29. Choma said the problem wasn’t the outage but power surges after restoration that impacted some of the circuits in their network.
He noted there is a back-up battery, but in this case, they needed to repair the damaged circuits.
At Inverness Municipal Council on January 8, resident Bill MacCarthy said people in the Lake Ainslie area were without telephone service for almost as long as they were without power. He said the company showed little interest in their situation.
MacCarthy insisted such problems must have a solution because for vulnerable people like senior citizens, losing phone service is unacceptable.
Council decided to contact Bell Alliant and request the company look into the issue and report back to them.
Not only do these episodes underscore the need for reliable, consistent landline phone service, but it also highlights the lack of even adequate cell phone service in those areas, and many other communities in the region.
If these residents could have either landline or cell service, this would not be a life-threatening situation where residents are cut-off from the rest of the world.
There is also no excuse for Bell Aliant’s lack of action on MacLean’s Boxing Day call, as well as calls from Lake Ainslie. This was a dire situation for those residents, and the company needed to act on it immediately, rather than waiting and forcing them to keep calling.
Since the current back-up system can fail during power surges, which are common when the lights go out, clearly the company has to provide these and other residents with a better back-up option.
The current system is inadequate for these and other Bell Aliant customers.