Holyrood hits redial on cellular complaints

By Mark Squibb
December 1, 2023 Edition

If you’re reading this in Conception Bay Centre, Holyrood, Conception Bay South, along the Southern Shore or St. Mary’s Bay, chances are you’ve grumbled about poor cell phone service in your community.

Poor cell phone service was a topic of conversation during this month’s Holyrood council meeting, and not for the first time.

“To be perfectly honest, the cell service sucks and it’s getting worse instead of better,” said public safety committee chairman Bruce King. “I’m sure there’s nobody in this room who hasn’t experienced this… In this day and age, you shouldn’t have to stand in front of the window with a wire coat hanger in one hand and the cat in the other in order to get cell phone service.”

King noted the fire department, as of November 7, has responded to 83 medical emergency calls in recent months, and asked what would happen if someone, especially a senior living alone, had a medical emergency and could not call for help due to bad cell phone service.

“Can you imagine being on the phone, talking with the 911 operator, and just as you’re about to tell the person where you live, the line goes dead?” posited King. “This needs to be improved. We’re paying top dollar for crappy service, that’s basically what it boils down to.”

Communications committee chairperson Laura Crawley noted the Town is still in communication with Bell Aliant regarding its spotty cell service, and reminded residents to air their grievances with the company directly.

“Bell is saying that they are not receiving complaints from the public about these dropped calls, and if they’re not receiving the complaints, they will not be logged, and Bell sees no problems whatsoever,” said Crawley. “I think one of the issues is that people are becoming complacent about the problem and are just kind of giving up because it has been ongoing for so long. But we do need to remain diligent logging every dropped call and that we contact our service provider. For example, my service provider is not Bell, but they still use Bell towers and Bell communications, so its very important that no matter who your provider is, you make that contact.”

Mayor Gary Goobie, however, took a different stance on Bell’s handling of the situation.

“I do not for a second believe that people calling in will get any results,” said Goobie. “I think they’re using that as a way out.”

Goobie said Bell is advertising to reach new customers while not caring for their current customers.

“And it’s not just Holyrood, we know this is happening in Conception Bay South, we know it’s happening in Colliers, it’s happening in this whole area, and as I said many meetings ago, if this was in Halifax somewhere or a very densely populated area, they would have it fixed in a heartbeat,” said the mayor. “This has been going on for too long, and they’ve used too many excuses.”

Goobie said council should take the matter to the federal government, and, if need be, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which regulates the cell companies.

Bay Bulls Mayor Keith O’Driscoll also expressed dissatisfaction this month with cell phone service along the Irish Loop.

“Cell coverage on Route 10 is at an all time low,” said O’Driscoll. “There’s about eight kilometres of either partial cell coverage or no cell coverage. That runs from Raymond’s Brook near the Goulds bypass right to the City limits. Over the last number of years, it has gotten much worse, and I really feel for the residents in our area, coming in and out of Bay Bulls and other communities and beyond.”

O’Driscoll said that many residents along the Southern Shore commute to and from St. John’s for both work and school. “With this terrible cell coverage, I fear that we could very well have a situation where someone is stranded on the highway, with no cell coverage, either with a broken-down car or, heaven forbid, after an accident,” he said. “Not having cell coverage is something we shouldn’t be dealing with in this day and age.”

O’Driscoll said he hopes the cell companies will be proactive rather than reactive, and address the issue before a tragedy occurs. He urged customers to call their providers to report bad cell coverage.

“As a mayor, I’m voicing concerns for our town,” said O’Driscoll. “Something needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

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