“It’s not just the 25 residences in Framboise who are having issues with their phones,” said Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon. “It’s a larger issue that includes when the electricity goes out … then residents in Fourchu and Framboise are lucky if they are with landline service for more than four to six hours,” she said.
“That’s completely inappropriate in this day and age.”
There is no cell phone service in Framboise and limited service in Fourchu, so when landlines are out there is no another option for making 911 calls.
This is why Paon and her office are drafting a letter to the Emergency Management Office and Municipal Affairs Minister Derek Mombourquette about the issue.
“This is a basic service and in doing the research, under the CRTC, all residents in Nova Scotia have the right to a basic local home service, because every resident should be able to call 911 if there is an emergency,” Paon said.
“This to me has escalated to something bigger… this is an emergency situation and it needs to be resolved immediately.”
Calls to EMO weren’t returned by press time.
Sarah Morrison has lived in Fourchu for more than 20 years. Her husband is the local fire chief and she is one of two medical first responders in the area. In August, they had no landline service and in July she estimated they would get service for a few minutes a day.
“We’re lucky that right now the landline for our volunteer fire department, that takes in our pager system, is working. But there are many times when it’s not working. Then no one in the area can call 911 if there is a medical emergency, a motor vehicle accident or a fire.”
Estimating she called Bell Aliant between 10–15 times over the past two months, Morrison also spoke with representatives via the online customer service chat line.
On Aug. 8 and Aug. 14 she was told via messaging that Bell Aliant was waiting on a part to make the repairs. Other residents in the area, like Joe Murphy, were told the same thing by technicians.
However, in an email statement received on Wednesday, Isabelle Boulet, spokesperson for Bell Aliant, said they were not waiting on a part, that repairs were done and they had no notification of “widespread” outages in the area.
Paon’s office also reached out to Bell Aliant via email and received the same response.
“Our email from Bell Aliant assured us that they knew there was an issue and that they had sent a technician out and that the issue had been resolved … it seems that this is not the case at all,” Paon said.
Although Morrison’s landline service resumed around 11 a.m. Thursday, she has little faith it will remain intact for long.
Paon believes part of the problem is the age of the system Bell Aliant has in place in the area.
“They are on a battery pack backup system with the landlines (when the power goes out) … it’s kind of an archaic infrastructure system they have from Fourchu all the way to Framboise so it’s very concerning,” Paon explained.
“The battery packs are supposed to be a backup service for 24 hours, but because the system is so old, as I understand it from Bell Aliant as well as from residents there, the batteries only last for about four to six hours if they are lucky, then the landlines go down with the electricity goes off.”
She believes that because this is a rural area, the problem isn’t being addressed as quickly as it would if it was in an urban area, which is why she wants the EMO to escalate it to an emergency situation.
“Whether 25 or 250 homes, people need to have access to basic services,” she said. “It’s their right.
“This is a basic service. It’s a basic right. And I really think it points to a larger issue of crumbling infrastructure that needs to be look at in rural communities all across Nova Scotia.”