Nova Scotia

Post-Dorian, residents calling for better cellphone service

Some Nova Scotia mobile phone users are questioning why they weren't able to make calls, text or use data to search for information online in the days following Hurricane Dorian.

Some residents not able to call, text or use data in days following hurricane

The federal government says there are no requirements for the provision of auxiliary power sources by telecommunications companies. (CBC)

Some Nova Scotia mobile phone users are questioning why they weren't able to make calls, text or use data to search for information online in the days following Hurricane Dorian.

There were and continue to be widespread power outages following Dorian, a Category 2 hurricane that made landfall near Halifax on Saturday evening as a post-tropical storm with hurricane-strength winds.

"At best, I may have received a text a few hours later. My calls were being dropped left, right and centre, and I don't think I was actually getting a lot of calls coming through," said Coralyn Fraser on Monday.

She was one of several mobile phone users in Dartmouth venting frustrations about a lack of cell coverage following the storm.

Her roof caved in as a result of Dorian and she said she had a difficult time getting information about shelters.

"I couldn't even Google anything," said Fraser.

Coralyn Fraser said on Monday she wasn't able to look anything up on her phone because of the lack of cell reception. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

On Monday, crews could be seen making repairs to a Rogers cell tower in Cole Harbour.

Fraser thinks cell towers should have better backup power systems in place.

"Cellphones are emergency items, we need them to keep in touch with people, we need them to keep in touch with 911 and any of the emergency services," she said.

A spokesperson for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), the federal department that helps co-ordinate assistance for telecommunication companies upon request during emergencies, said neither ISED nor the CRTC have requirements for the provision of auxiliary power sources.

"The resiliency of the telecommunications networks is the responsibility of telecommunications service providers," wrote a department spokesperson in a statement.

Unclear when cell towers will be restored

The extent of the cell tower outages has not been disclosed by the mobility companies — and it's unclear when they will be completely restored.

On Sunday, a Rogers spokesperson told CBC News the company has sent more than 20 technicians from Ontario to join local crews to help with service restoration. The spokesperson said the company's towers are powered by electricity and they use backup generators when the power goes out.

Rogers cellphone towers are powered by electricity and use backup generators when the power goes out. (CBC)

A Bell Aliant spokesperson said the company has been sending teams out to activate generators when battery backup power systems are depleting.

A Telus spokesperson said the company was working closely with its network partners to keep its customers updated through its website and Twitter.

On Monday, Telus announced it would waive all domestic voice, text and data overage fees incurred beginning Saturday, Sept. 7, for a period of a week.

"Some of our customers in Atlantic Canada may still be experiencing wireless service interruption because of Hurricane Dorian," spokesperson Steve Beisswanger wrote in a statement to CBC News. "We apologize for the inconvenience and thank our customers for their patience and understanding."

The backup generator for an Eastlink cell tower in Cole Harbour. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Bernie Petitpas described his cell reception as "crap" for the last few days.

"It should be a service that works, they [the cellphone companies] don't seem to really care," he said.

Laura Poirier said her weekend cell service was "impossible."

"There was no cell service, there was no internet service and my husband for work had to be calling into work and he couldn't keep the phone calls going," she said. "They would last for a minute and then cut out."

Bernie Petitpas, a long-haul driver who was in Dartmouth on Monday, described his cellphone service as 'crap' for the last few days. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Marie Brenton said she didn't have cell reception or a landline connection after Dorian. She said she was especially concerned for more vulnerable people in the community.

"Older people and stuff, if they have no landline or no cellphone, how are they going to be able to get some help if they have an emergency? They have no way of getting help," she said.

The issue isn't isolated to the Dartmouth area.

Reception issues elsewhere in N.S.

In Cape Breton, Alana Paon, the Independent MLA for Cape Breton-Richmond, drove around her constituency on Monday to check in on residents.

She said cell reception has been a problem in the area since Dorian.

"It's hard for people to call for help and it's hard to get information out to folks that are in rural communities," said Paon.

With files from Paul Palmeter, Paul Withers and Tom Ayers


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