NS Premier blasts telecom companies over Fiona, calls on Ottawa to intervene in regulation
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston calls for more transparency and cooperation from major telecom companies, slamming them for not being more involved in provincial coordination efforts in the wake of a storm major event that interrupted service for hundreds of thousands of people across Atlantic Canada.
In a press release Wednesday, the Houston office said it had written to Francois-Philippe Champagne, the federal minister responsible for telecommunications, asking Ottawa to take action to ensure the companies provide the public with information about service outages in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.
“Nova Scotians are wondering when their service will be restored, the extent of the outages and what companies plan to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Houston said in the statement.
“It is unacceptable that there are Nova Scotians who cannot call 911 or communicate with loved ones during this difficult time. There is no doubt that we need our telecommunications companies to intervene and be more transparent.
Unlike Nova Scotia Power, which operates a detailed outage map that provides predicted restore times, carriers do not have such a requirement. Consumer advocates have warned that a lack of accountability will persist unless the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) intervenes in greater industry regulation for things such as performance standards.
In its press release, Houston said officials from the province’s Office of Emergency Management have requested that key critical infrastructure partners, including telecommunications companies, send a representative to the provincial coordination center.
“No telecommunications company was initially willing to send a representative. It was only after complaints from senior management that Bell agreed to send a representative in person, who attended the center for two days before to announce that they would be working virtually Eastlink, Rogers and Telus declined to attend the [centre] in person during the initial response. »
CBC News reached out to Rogers, Telus, Bell and Eastlink to comment on Houston’s statement today.
Call for federal action
Houston said the telecom response stands in stark contrast to Nova Scotia Power, the Canadian Red Cross, the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, all of which have « actively sought opportunities to communicate regularly with Newcomers. » -Scottish before, during the storm and after the storm. »
“Other service providers have come together to ensure Nova Scotians have the information they need, but telecommunications companies are consistently absent from the table,” Houston said.
« We call on the federal government, as the regulator, to ensure that telecommunications is accountable for its performance in emergencies and transparent with customers. »
Information Morning – N.S.7:27Why is it so hard to know what’s behind cellular outages during storms?
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said his government was « very active in this area, » pointing to the summer’s response to widespread Rogers network outages.
LeBlanc said the government would consider what regulatory action would be needed « if we conclude that companies aren’t doing everything they can » to build resilience and redundancy into their systems.
Speaking in French, National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said telecommunications systems are essential. When these systems fail, people cannot access vital information and are often unable to afford needed supplies, she said.
Lebouthillier called it a matter of public safety and said the government would legislate if that’s what is necessary to protect public welfare.
As of Wednesday, more than 100,000 people in Nova Scotia were still without power. Telecom spokespersons told CBC News that while they are working to restore cellular and internet service for their customers, not everyone will be able to be reconnected until power is restored.