Legislation in N.S. demands that telecommunications companies improve response to storms

The Nova Scotia government has introduced legislation to “require” telecommunications companies to be more responsible and provide more reliable service in an emergency.

The government has introduced changes to the Emergency Management Act and the Emergency 911 Act which will require businesses to prepare before a storm, take precautions to provide continuous telephone service in the event of an emergency and to provide updates and transparency to customers.

The penalty for failing to comply with legislation or regulations could result in daily fines of up to $250,000, according to a news release from the province.

The move comes after Premier Tim Houston openly criticized the companies for declining phone and internet services following post-tropical storm Fiona in September.

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Nova Scotia premier slams telecom providers for ‘poor turnout’ in Fiona response

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The severe storm swept across Atlantic Canada late last month, bringing hurricane-force winds that left many people without power — and in some cases the ability to communicate.

“It is unacceptable that there are Nova Scotians who cannot call 911 or contact loved ones during this difficult time. There is no doubt that we need our telecommunications companies to step up and be more transparent,” Houston said at the time.

Houston also criticized the companies for their « poor engagement » with the province when it came to coordinating their response.

The Prime Minister even sent a letter to the federal minister responsible for telecommunications companies, François-Philippe Champagne, asking him to ensure that the companies are accountable for their performance.

Click to play video: “Many Maritimers still without power two weeks after Fiona”

Many Maritimers still without power two weeks after Fiona

In response, representatives from Bell and Eastlink told reporters on September 28 that their crews were working around the clock to restore service.

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Lee Bragg, executive vice-chairman of Eastlink, said he found the Prime Minister’s comments « unfair » given the scale of the storm.

« This particular storm was massive, but I will say – from my experience of Dorian and Hurricane Juan – we had a higher level of coordination with all of our other telecommunications and infrastructure partners, » said he declared.

Geoff Moore, director of network operations at Bell, acknowledged that communication with the province could always be better in an emergency and that they were always looking for ways to improve. However, he said the company was doing its best given the ferocity of the storm.

« We can’t forget that we had a huge hurricane impact in Nova Scotia, so I think a service expectation that never diminishes is not something reasonable given the magnitude of the storm. event that struck us, » Moore said.


Changes introduced on Thursday include requiring service providers to develop an annual emergency response plan “which must be approved” by the minister responsible for the Office of Emergency Management, who is currently John Lohr.

The Minister would also have the power to require the “physical presence” of suppliers at emergency planning meetings and to require them to share their records.

Additionally, the changes include requiring companies to provide customers with discounts for the period of service interruption.

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— with a file by Alex Cooke

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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