Ottawa

Internet outages after storm frustrate residents in eastern Ontario

Some residents in eastern Ontario who lost internet access in the aftermath of last weekend’s storm are frustrated, saying it has underlined shortcomings of the digital age.

Issues show shortcomings of digital age, residents say

Hydro workers repair powerlines in Ottawa. While it's estimated that most Ottawans will have their power restored in a matter of days, many feel frustrated about the continued lack of internet access. (Brian Morris/CBC)

Some residents of eastern Ontario who lost internet access in the aftermath of last weekend's storm are frustrated, saying it has underlined shortcomings of the digital age.

"Everything has been downloaded to the internet," said Amber McCoy, who lives in Richmond in rural south Ottawa. "'Go to the internet. Go to the internet. Go to the internet.' And when it's not there, where do you go anymore?"

Once the storm was over, McCoy — who's been left without running water at home — began searching for essential information, such as the magnitude of the storm and how long power outages might last.

She was disappointed by the lack of useful information immediately broadcast on radio. 

McCoy keeps goats on her hobby farm but felt left in the dark when, in her search for fresh water, she struggled to connect to the 3-1-1 phone line. With gas a precious commodity, she didn't want to waste it driving around needlessly. 

"There still needs to be some backup, bare bones basic methods of communication to deal with this kind of scenario," she said.

Challenging to work from home

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson pointed residents to free Wi-Fi at public libraries, community centres and city hall.

"I've heard from a number of people who obviously are concerned and upset that their internet service is off," the mayor said at a media briefing Wednesday.

"But they would have to really contact their supplier. As I mentioned, we've got options available for people to come. I know it's not perfect."

According to Bell's website Wednesday evening, most calls of service issues came from postal codes starting with K1A, K4C, K1H and K0A, which represent part of downtown Ottawa, Cumberland, Alta Vista and many of the towns surrounding the National Capital Region.

Likewise, Rogers' website said most reports are from postal codes starting with K1A, K0A and K4C, with internet access being the most common issue.

Orléans resident Nancy Lebrun has been repeatedly disappointed by her service provider missing service resumption deadlines. 

"I work partially at home and I need my internet and my husband works at home every day and he's been without internet," she said. "So it's been quite disruptive."

While Nancy Lebrun's power has been restored after the storm knocked it out, she continues to have no internet access. She said the lack of communication has been frustrating. Pictured above, a neighbour stands near a tree that came crashing down in their Orléans neighbourhood. (Nancy Lebrun)

Bells Corners resident David Gilbert said the lack of internet access is affecting his livelihood, which involves connecting with clients virtually. 

While he's heard updates about when electricity may be restored, he's heard only "deafening silence" about when he may have the internet again.

"Is it a day more? Is it a week more? And for those who rely on the internet for all kinds of reasons, that's a challenge."

'Definitely has some shortcomings'

McCoy said her internet woes were only compounded by the number of people using data on their devices, which clogged up cell towers and made accessing and downloading web pages difficult. 

While her power and internet are back, she said even a simpler web page — one without graphics — may have made it easier to access critical information. 

"As awesome and amazing as it is, during something like this, it definitely has some shortcomings," she said. "And we can't lose sight of the importance of other routes of communication."

Severe thunderstorm leaves trail of damage in Ottawa area

6 months ago
Duration 2:07
Saturday’s storm toppled trees, damaged homes and downed power lines, leaving more than 100,000 customers in the dark. The strongest gust of wind at the Ottawa International Airport measured 120 km/h.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly gave Amber McCoy's location.
    May 26, 2022 9:21 AM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe Tunney reports for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at joe.tunney@cbc.ca

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