On January 20th, Marc Serré, Member of Parliament for Nickel Belt, met with a number of residents from St. Charles to learn more about the long-term, ongoing problems that many in the community are having with the poor quality landline telephone service offered by Bell Canada.
According to residents, it is a common occurrence to pick up their telephone and not hear a dial tone. Also, frequently a dial tone may be present however it is very distorted rendering it impossible to make or receive calls. Like residents, Mr. Serré believes that this presents not just a serious safety issue to the community, but an economic one, as well. That is why he has sought assistance from the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development as well as the CRTC to try and get a favourable resolution for residents.
“I listened to the concerns of an elderly resident stating each day brings her much worry not knowing if her “lifeline” will work in the event of an emergency. This is one of many stories that were shared, stories of great worry and concern for seniors and for their loved ones. How frightening would it be for any resident of St. Charles to be in situation where they are in need of assistance and unable to be heard. This is not about St. Charles’ emergency responders, who are ready to act when called upon. Rather, this has to do with the fact that home landline telephone service subscribers in St. Charles are not getting the service they expect, deserve and pay for” said Serré.
Serré added: “Local business owners have vocalized their frustration with the interruptions in service. For example, missing customer calls which translates to missing out on business opportunities. Customers upset because they are unable to make payments or purchases by debit or credit, the most frequently used payment methods used in our modern economy. In cases like these, both business owners and consumers are negatively affected”.
Kathy Lalonde, resident of St. Charles shared her experience having lived through an emergency situation in the area: “When living in a rural community with no access to a landline, it is very terrifying. Not feeling safe in your own home and always worried for your family. I speak from experience having lived through an emergency situation when my neighbor’s house caught fire on October 26, 2016. I called 911 five times and was only able to get a dial tone twice! Knowing my neighbor was in her home and not being able to reach 911 because Bell Canada’s landlines in this area are deteriorated, was a dreadful experience”.
Dan Lalonde, St. Charles resident and business owner also shared: “As a small business owner, we have suffered from Bell Canada’s disregard in this matter of deteriorated lines and equipment. Not only are my regular customers inconvenienced but we have also lost new customers. Could Bell Canada survive without contact with their customers?”.
Ron MacDorman, St. Charles resident also expressed great concern: “The problem is Bell landline service is intermittent, sometimes we can’t call out and other times we can’t receive calls and many times the line is completely distorted or dead. The greatest concern for me is if the phone line does not work that means I can’t dial 911 in the event of an emergency! We have many seniors in this area and have many families with children especially in the summer tourist months. Who will be responsible if God forbid a life is lost because the phone does not work to call 911! We are all paying for a service that we do not get, however, Bell still collects our money every month. They keep putting a Band-Aid on a deteriorating system, it’s time they fix the problem!”
“In the October/2016 my Aunt (83 yrs old) visited from New Brunswick for a month. She was hospitalized for 13 days. Very often I was unable to contact her family to inform them of her condition, give them updates or get information needed by the hospital. It was very frustrating and worrisome,” said Marilyn Wyers, St Charles resident.
“I would like to thank the many residents of St. Charles who shared feedback about the poor quality of their landline telephone service with me. After listening to their concerns I am calling on Bell Canada to likewise listen to these concerns and take action to remedy its telecommunications infrastructure in the community of St. Charles. In December 2016 the CRTC declared broadband, high-speed internet an essential basic service—with this in mind, surely Bell Canada can do more to provide reliable landline telephone service to residents of St. Charles,” Serré concluded.