Rogers examines ice storm's impact on phone, internet service

An executive with Rogers Communications say the company is looking to improve its network in New Brunswick after the Christmas ice storm.

Widespread power outages limited ability of people impacted to get information

An executive with Rogers Communications say the company is looking to improve its network in New Brunswick after the Christmas ice storm.

The company had customers in the Saint John area who lost phone service despite Rogers having back-up power systems in place to operate its systems.

Freezing rain led to power lines and those of other utilities being taken down in the ice storm. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)
However, Rogers home phones use a modem that requires electricity. So if a home lost power and didn't have a charged backup battery or another electrical source for the modem, their telephone didn't work.

Ken Marshall, the president for Rogers Communications in Atlantic Canada, said the company is taking a look at what happened during the ice storm.

"We can keep a neighbourhood running forever and ever, but if they don't have power in their home and they're not keeping their back-up batteries up and running, there's no point in us doing that," said Marshall.

Rogers phones use internet to connect with existing residential lines. Internet service was also lost.

The company has its main site with backup power and field sites that have limited back-up batteries for power outages. The system does require a constant source of power to operate.

"We're working with New Brunswick Power to make sure there's an effective means of communication in these outages," said Marshall.

"We visit each of these power supplies on a constant basis and we will monitor each of these modems within a customer's home to make sure back-up batteries are up and working."

The communications breakdown in the ice storm is also causing some municipalities to rethink their plans for emergency notification.

At one point, 54,000 NB Power customers were without electricity in the city storm. Some of them were without power for more than a week.

Grand Bay-Westfield and neighbouring communities subscribe to Sentinel Systems of Bathurst to distribute emergency communication. However the loss of electricty limited the ability for Sentinel to contact many people through telephone and internet due to the loss of telephone and internet service.


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