/Wondering about Ma Bell

Wondering about Ma Bell

By Jim Poling Sr.

I’ve been wondering a lot recently about Bell. You know, the telephone company now into mobile phones, internet service, digital television, radio and television news, sports and entertainment programming, plus TV and film productions.
Bell no longer is just Bell Telephone or Ma Bell. It is Canada’s largest telecommunications company with 52,000 employees.
Despite that, it seems to have problems providing consistent quality services to folks in Haliburton County. Not many people in the Highlands have words of high praise for the company.
That’s not unusual: people tend to knock big companies that provide them services and charge them significant dollars for doing so. However, there have been some recent events that have me wondering about Bell service in the Highlands.
Early last summer people using Bell landlines or cell phones reported problems trying to reach municipal and health care offices. Minden Hills township reported Bell customers calling its offices were unable to connect.
Similar problems were reported by Haliburton Highlands Health Services and the Haliburton County Public Library.

The problems apparently were caused by an issue between Bell and a company it uses to service internet-based telephone connection software. Those problems have been resolved.
Also, the Times recently carried a story quoting Duck Lake Road area resident Paul Petric, who said that power outages kill his Bell landline telephone service, making it impossible to call 911 in an emergency. Cell service in his area is spotty, he said, so during power outages he has no reliable way of making an emergency call.
This is not supposed to happen because there apparently is a battery backup system to ensure landline telephone service during power outages, which are not a rarity in the Highlands.
Now there are rumours that Bell has stopped maintaining the battery backup system, leaving some areas without telephone service during planned or unexpected power outages. These are rumours which are neither denied nor confirmed by Bell.
Petric said he talked with a Bell representative in July and was told he would receive a callback within a week with answers to his questions. He still has not heard back.

One month ago I emailed Bell media relations and asked about the battery backup system and whether it is being maintained. I got a quick reply from Jacqueline Michelis who wrote:
“We have received your inquiry. We are looking into this and will get back to you.”
I have not heard from her or anyone else at Bell since.
So here I am wondering about Bell’s landline system and whether it is reliable when needed in times of emergency.
I’m also wondering why Canada’s largest telecommunications company cannot quickly and simply tell people what is happening. Is there a battery backup system and is it being maintained? If not, what is being done to assure full time, reliable landline telephone service for emergencies?
It’s not good enough to say use your cell phone. Not everyone has one. And, cell service in parts of the Highlands is totally unreliable. But that’s a story for another day.
This is probably a small issue considering all the other things Bell has to deal with across its vast, Canada-wide network. Small or not, I would have thought this is something any company would want to get ahead of quickly.
The failure to do so raises questions about how serious Bell is about serving low population, high maintenance areas like the Highlands.
Its competitors already are eating into its customer base in some areas. Many people I have talked to are dropping Bell internet and television service and signing with Elon Musk’s fledgling Starlink service. They say Starlink offers them much more for less monthly cost.

Perhaps Bell doesn’t care and would be happy not providing services to the Highlands. If so, that’s fine. Just communicate with people. Tell them what’s happening so they can decide what alternatives they have.
I also would have thought that a company that makes billions of dollars a year in the communication business would be very aware of the dangers of poor communication. Poor communication causes misunderstandings, confusion and conflicts.
Most importantly, bad communication, or simply lack of communication, creates mistrust. And, mistrust certainly is not good for business.