Crews from Nova Scotia Power work on reconnecting the power grid to the Glace Bay Hospital knocked out by Hurricane Fiona, in Glace Bay, N.S., Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. The premier of Nova Scotia has issued a stinging rebuke to the telecommunications companies that serve the province, saying too many Nova Scotians are still without cellphone service, four days after post-tropical storm Fiona roared across Atlantic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Vaughan Merchant

Fiona fallout: Nova Scotia premier blasts cellphone companies for poor service

The premier of Nova Scotia has issued a stinging rebuke to the telecommunications companies that serve the province, saying too many residents are still without cellphone service four days after post-tropical storm Fiona roared across Atlantic Canada.

Tim Houston issued a statement Wednesday saying it’s unacceptable that there are Nova Scotians who still can’t call 911 or connect with loved ones.

“Nova Scotians have questions about when their service will be restored, how widespread the outages are and what the companies plan to do to ensure this never happens again,” he said. “There is no question we need our telecommunications companies to step up and be more transparent.”

The premier said the government had asked Bell, Eastlink, Rogers and Telus to send representatives to the province’s emergency co-ordination centre prior to Fiona’s arrival, but he said none of the companies was initially willing to co-operate.

Bell eventually sent someone after the province complained to the company’s senior management, but the premier said the representative left after two days to work virtually.

“Eastlink, Rogers and Telus declined to attend the (co-ordination centre) in person during the initial response,” the premier said, adding that the province’s electric utility, Nova Scotia Power, was at the centre.

As well, Houston said he has asked federal Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne to hold the telecommunications companies accountable for providing information about service outages.

“Other service providers have come together in an effort to make sure Nova Scotians have the information they need, yet the telecommunications companies are consistently missing from the table,” Houston said.

“We are calling on the federal government, as the regulator, to ensure that telecommunications are accountable for their performance in emergencies and transparent with customers.”

As of Wednesday morning, more than 104,000 homes and businesses in Nova Scotia were still without electricity, which represents 20 per cent of Nova Scotia Power’s customers. The outages, which started early Saturday, have had an impact on cellphone service because the backup batteries in cellphone towers are dying.

Poor cellphone service has also been reported in P.E.I. and southwestern Newfoundland, where Fiona thrashed both areas with massive storm surges and hurricane-force winds.