‘An ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion’

Prob­lem for cus­tomers around the At­lantic re­gion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY MICHAEL TUTTON

Much of At­lantic Canada lost cell­phone and other net­work ser­vices for more than four hours Fri­day, in­con­ve­nienc­ing cit­i­zens and com­merce alike, af­ter what Bell called “ac­ci­den­tal dam­age” to its fi­bre op­tic grid.

Bell said its “ma­jor ser­vice out­age” hit in­ter­net, TV, wire­less and lan­d­line phones, with lan­d­line 911 ser­vice in­ter­mit­tent.

In St. John’s, N.L., Lau­ren Hal­l­i­day said the out­age came at a par­tic­u­larly bad time for her fam­ily as her sis­ter was at home and ex­pected to go into labour at any time.

“My sis­ter is sup­posed to have a baby to­day or to­mor­row so we were kind of sweat­ing about that, mak­ing sure that she had a car to get to the hos­pi­tal and stuff,” she said in an in­ter­view on Fri­day.

“I tried to make a few phone calls and noth­ing would go through.”

Flights were de­layed at mul­ti­ple air­ports, many con­sumers couldn’t use their debit and credit cards and TD Canada Trust was among the banks clos­ing some branches in the re­gion.

Bell said the out­age be­gan at 10:45 a.m. AT, with ser­vice re­stored at 3 p.m “fol­low­ing rerout­ing and re­pair of net­work in­fra­struc­ture.”

“This was an ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion in which ma­jor fi­bre net­work links serv­ing At­lantic Canada were cut by third-party con­struc­tion work in two dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions,” said spokesman Nathan Gib­son in an email.

“We are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing how the fi­bre cuts hap­pened.”

Telus spokesman Richard Gil­hoo­ley said his com­pany’s ser­vices, which rely on Bell in­fra­struc­ture, had also been re­stored.

The out­age dom­i­nated so­cial me­dia in the re­gion, with Twit­ter user Cody Neal jok­ing: “I have no way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with my wife about what we’re hav­ing (for) sup­per other than walk­ing up­stairs and ask­ing.”

An On­tario Twit­ter user, Jor­dan MacKin­non, joked: “My thoughts and prayers are with those in At­lantic Canada, who are cur­rently be­ing forced to speak to each other like it’s 1994.”

A spokes­woman with Rogers and Fido said their cel­lu­lar net­work was not af­fected. Eastlink said in a state­ment “an in­ter­rup­tion im­pact­ing our net­work part­ners ... may af­fect your abil­ity to place calls.”

Telus sub­sidiary Koodo was also knocked out by the out­age.

The sit­u­a­tion prompted emer­gency ser­vices in St. John’s, N.L., Saint John, N.B., and other At­lantic cities to de­ploy emer­gency ve­hi­cles at strate­gic lo­ca­tions for peo­ple who couldn’t call am­bu­lances us­ing nor­mal meth­ods.

Hal­i­fax Stan­field air­port said some flights were af­fected, and Air Canada said com­puter is­sues hit flights at mul­ti­ple Cana­dian air­ports. WestJet said its Monc­ton call cen­tre is “off­line,” and asked cus­tomers to call later un­less the mat­ter was ur­gent.

The out­age ap­peared to ham­per emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions in some parts of the re­gion, and peo­ple were ad­vised to try non-emer­gency num­bers if 911 didn’t work.

Of­fi­cials in Hal­i­fax said emer­gency ser­vices were avail­able through­out the out­age, although some first re­spon­ders had is­sues with their phone ser­vice.

They said in a state­ment that the Hal­i­fax fire ser­vice told all vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers to head to un­staffed fire sta­tions “as soon as pos­si­ble, to en­sure smooth com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween our dis­patch op­er­a­tors and in­di­vid­ual sta­tions as well as be­ing on­hand to as­sist cit­i­zens who need emer­gency as­sis­tance.”

It wasn’t the first time a dam­aged ca­ble sud­denly sliced nor­mal telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vice in the re­gion.

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