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Premier: Telecom companies should say ‘sorry’ to Nova Scotians over Fiona outages

By Skye Bryden-Blom Sep 29, 2022 | 5:17 PM

Downed power poles in Pictou County. (CREDIT: Communications Nova Scotia).

The premier does not believe the response of telecom companies to complaints over service disruptions during Fiona goes far enough. 

Tim Houston says he would have liked Nova Scotians to have received an apology after many couldn’t call loved ones or 911. 

He adds telecom giants like Bell, Eastlink, and Rogers need to be more accountable to Nova Scotians.

“The only evidence I’m considering is the experiences of Nova Scotians. This is not an inconvenience, this was a major impediment to the early steps of the recovery. It made it very difficult to do wellness checks on people,” Houston says. “I would have liked to have at least heard from the telecommunications companies that that they could do better and that they were sorry. But to hear them say that everything was just great as could be is false. Well, short of my own personal experience – and the experiences that Nova Scotians related to me – and that’s the experience that matters.”

Houston issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the companies for not keeping the public better informed about outages in the wake of Fiona.

During a media briefing, representatives from Bell and Eastlink reported they weathered the storm well given the major impacts. Bell’s Geoff Moore reported co-ordination among cell providers and Nova Scotia Power was “top notch.”

However, Houston argues similar communication problems arose for Nova Scotians during Dorian three years ago when people could not make calls or access the internet. 

He believes the first step to better reliability is getting telecom giants to be fully involved in provincial coordination efforts during major storms. 

“I would say first and foremost is that there’s no reason that I can think of why the telecommunications companies weren’t participating fully in the command center operations leading up to the storm and during the storm,” Houston says. “I think that it should have been something that they were were willing to do. We’ll look at a number of things. But that would be the first place that I’m going to start to make sure that they participate with all the partners and make sure we keep Nova Scotia safe and that they’re communicated to or connected to the world.”

Francois-Philippe Champagne is the federal government minister responsible for telecommunications. Houston is calling on Champagne to ask Ottawa to move to ensure companies provide people with information about outages amid major storms.

Houston says he won’t stop until he knows Nova Scotians can weather any storm and remain connected.

“What we’re very focused today on is keeping people safe, getting people shelter, making sure people have water, and making sure people have food,” Houston explains. “But I want to assure Nova Scotians that focus is going to switch very, very quickly, to making sure we don’t find ourselves in this situation again that includes a telecommunications company. So if the federal government drops the ball again, I won’t.”


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