Staying connected in eastern Richmond County

HALIFAX: Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon doesn’t want a repeat performance of inferior landline telephone service for the people of Framboise and Fourchu.

“As I understand, they didn’t have access to landline service for over a month,” Paon told The Reporter last Thursday. “The community is not very large, and there’s an aging population in that area, which makes this issue that much more of a priority.”

BellAliant is their service provider in the communities. The landlines of the eastern Richmond County communities are connected to a tower in Fourchu that transmits to Gabarus. Paon said something in the system was causing a great deal of static on the lines, failed calls, and periods of no service whatsoever.

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“As I understand, the issue has been resolved, but there’s a higher-level issue here,” she said. “For over a month, these residents couldn’t access their basic 911 service. There’s no cell phone service in that area, and landlines had been down for approximately 120 homes.

“From what I read of CRTC [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission] regulations, everyone is supposed to have the basic right to access 911 services. However, if your landline is not working and you have no cell coverage, how on earth are you supposed to call 911?

“I can only imagine if this issue dealt with 120 homes in an urban community in Nova Scotia. It would have gotten a lot more press, and it would have been resolved much faster. To me, it was an emergency issue, and it should have been dealt with by EMO [Emergency Measures Office].”

With winter coming, a repeat performance of landlines acting up would not be a good thing, Paon said. She mentioned that the tower in Fourchu has a battery back-up that kicks in during power outages, but she’s been told it lasts for only four to six hours.

Derek Mombourquette, Minister for the Emergency Management Office, assured Paon they would have a meeting on the matter.

Paon wants someone from the Municipality of Richmond County who can flesh out what the municipality has for an emergency measures plan. A representative from the CRTC would also be welcome.

An easy fix for the problem, she added, might be to have a cell phone tower set up in the area.