Nova Scotia premier slams telcos over service issues in wake of Fiona, calls on feds for action

In the aftermath of Post-Tropical Storm Fiona, Nova Scotia’s Premier calls on telcos to “step up,” saying many residents still don’t have cell phone service or access to 911 days after the storm hit the Province.

“Nova Scotians have questions about when their service will be restored, how widespread the outages are, and what companies plan to do to ensure this never happens again,” Tim Houston said in a statement Wednesday.

“It is unacceptable that Nova Scotians are unable to call 911 or connect with loved ones during this difficult time. There is no question that we need our telcos to step up and be more transparent.”

Fiona swept across Atlantic Canada last weekend, destroying homes, downing power lines and stranding many residents without shelter or communications.

Nova Scotia was one of the provinces hardest hit by the storm. Houston said in the statement that the province had anticipated the impact on its telecommunications in advance and had contacted key partners, including Bell, Eastlink, Rogers and Telus, requesting that they send representatives for an emergency meeting to coordinate earlier. to storm

“No telecommunications company was initially willing to send a representative,” the statement alleges. “Only after complaints to senior leadership did Bell agree to send a representative in person, who attended the center for two days before announcing that they would be working virtually. Eastlink, Rogers and Telus refused to attend the (Provincial Coordination Center) in person during the initial response.”

In a statement Wednesday, Bell spokeswoman Katie Hatfield said the company had been working with the province prior to the storm.

“We understand that Premier Houston is dealing with the worst natural disaster to hit the province and may not be receiving the most up-to-date information, but Bell has been at the Provincial Command Center in person since before the storm hit,” reads in the statement.

Bell added that their representative worked virtually while “securing their own property” and that they stayed connected to up-to-date information.

“Even at their peak, the vast majority of our wired and wireless networks were up and operational, and at this point, they’re close to 100 percent back,” Bell said.

“Both 911 and our emergency response network also remained fully operational throughout the storm and its aftermath.”

Bell is responsible for the 911 infrastructure in Atlantic Canada, along with the truck-mounted mobile radio infrastructure used by first responders in the region.

BCE Inc., formerly Bell Canada Enterprises Inc., is the parent company of Bell Media and CTV News.

Telus is also refuting the prime minister’s claim that they have not been sufficiently involved, saying in a statement to that they “have been a fully engaged participant before and during” the storm, and have initiated contact with Emergency Management. from Nova Scotia. Organization (NSEMO) on September 21st before Fiona hit up to offer her support.

“Telus successfully coordinated NSEMO requests, including relaying safety messages to affected communities, prioritizing telecommunications restoration for critical health facilities, and offering spare generators to support emergency response,” the statement said. .

“We continue to collaborate and support our network partners who own the infrastructure in the area to restore service as soon as possible and deploy critical equipment, including generators and batteries. The vast majority of the mobility service is already operational. The outage is a result of the power outage and severe weather conditions.”

Rogers stated Wednesday that they had worked with the provincial and federal government before and after the storm.

As affected areas were cleared of downed lines or trees, our local crews were able to restore services as quickly as possible. “We now have 99 percent of services restored across the region.”

In an email to, Eastlink said his team “has been in constant communication with NS Power, EMO and other key partners since before the storm and constantly after.”

“Our CEO contacted Premier Houston the day after the storm and spoke with him soon after to make sure Premier heard from us how our network fared, how our teams prepared, and the work our teams are doing to restore Houston. customers and ensure he had a direct line to us for any follow-up if he had questions or concerns,” the statement said.

Eastlink added that they had been focused on assessing Fiona’s impact and where their efforts were needed to divert communications during the hours and days after the storm.

“Once that work was complete, we physically placed a link in the Command Center.”

According to Nova Scotia Power’s outage map, about 91,000 people remained without power in the province as of Wednesday afternoon, with about 7,400 active outages.

The northeastern section of the province, as well as Cape Breton, were experiencing the most blackouts. As of 6 a.m., 59 percent of customers in the Northeast region had their power restored, according to an update from NS Power, while 61 percent of customers in Cape Breton had their power restored. These blackouts also affect cell phone towers, because the backup batteries on those towers are running out of power.

In a letter to Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Houston explained that Nova Scotia Power, the Canadian Red Cross and the regional municipalities of Halifax and Cape Breton had been participating in daily media interviews and briefings to support Nova Scotians. updated via a live radio broadcast, “one of the only ways to reach Nova Scotians without cell or landline service.”

“Our telecommunications partners have had little or no participation in these briefings. His absence is notable,” the letter said. “When a spokesperson is made available to the media, questions about how many customers are without service and where, and when Nova Scotians can expect their service to be restored, have largely gone unanswered.”

Telus appeared to address this framework in its statement, specifying that they had been part of briefings.

“Telus has attended 15 consecutive Nova Scotia EMO calls, hosted by the Nova Scotia Provincial Coordination Center, for an average of three calls each day from September 23-27,” the statement said. “We will continue to actively participate in those calls.”

The prime minister ended the letter by calling on the federal government to hold telcos accountable for engaging in emergency planning and being transparent with customers.

On Prince Edward Island, where strong winds downed numerous power lines, poor cell phone service has also been reported.

The federal government has declared restoring telecommunications a priority in the region, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying Monday that the storm exceeded his expectations in terms of damage.

“There will be more to learn about how we keep people safe, as extreme weather events are unfortunately going to be more likely in the years to come,” Trudeau told reporters.

“The Canadian Armed Forces are on the ground in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and on Prince Edward Island,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. “When it comes to cell service, it’s absolutely a priority for Canadians in good times and during disasters, and that’s why we’re working hard with cell phone companies to get Canadians the service they need.”

With Canadian Press archives

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