Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Last Friday’s breakdown in Atlantic Canada affected emergency services, caused cellphone outages and interrupted Internet services for hours.

milicad/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Last Friday's Bell Aliant outage in many parts of Atlantic Canada has dialled up concerns among experts about the security of the region's telecommunications system.

Eamon Hoey, a management consultant in Toronto who has worked in the field for more than four decades, said in an interview the breakdown of Bell's system because of cuts in crucial fibre-optic links raises questions about whether there is sufficient backup.

"We need better networks. We need more robust networks. This case in the Atlantic provinces suggests we don't have it," he said on Monday from his home in Toronto.

Story continues below advertisement

The breakdown affected emergency services in some parts of the region, caused widespread cellular telephone outages on Telus, Bell, Virgin and Koodo, and also interrupted Internet and some landline services for about four hours, beginning late Friday morning. The Rogers and Eastlink networks continued to operate.

Emergency-measures agencies in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick said Tuesday they will be in talks with Bell following the outage.

In 2011, a cut in a Bell fibre-optic line in northern New Brunswick led to service outages through many parts of that province for about three hours.

Mr. Hoey says the region's network is heavily reliant on Bell's fibre-optic system and said the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) should consider the need for more backup methods.

The veteran consultant also says he believes the federal regulator should be collecting and posting detailed information on all similar outages around the country.

"How effective are the carriers in keeping their networks up and running? We have no idea," he said.

Michael Cada, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Dalhousie University, also said in an interview that the outage suggests a second network, or a backup method such as a satellite system, should be available.

Story continues below advertisement

"There should always be a backup plan. There should always be somebody else to ideally compete and if not compete to have an alternative route," Mr. Cada said, whose research interests include fibre-optic technologies.

"In the future, I would try to allow more competition."

Bell has issued a short statement saying it is investigating "an extraordinary situation" and that there were multiple breaks in the system caused by a third-party contractor.

The company has declined to provide an official for an interview, although it confirmed in an e-mail on Tuesday the cuts occurred in Drummondville, in eastern Quebec, and in Richibucto, N.B. Telus was unavailable for comment.

Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said in an interview that in his province, the outage meant that when people called 911, their location wasn't coming up, though regular voice service was working for people able to call in.

Firefighters were recalled to their stations and ambulances were stationed around several cities as a precaution, he added.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. MacCallum said he will be having conversations with Bell to learn more about future contingency plans for similar outages.

"They have a primary and alternate fibre system that runs into Atlantic Canada and this is a perfect combination of bad circumstances, where one broke and they were using the alternate and it got broken," he said.

"Our critical infrastructure manager is going to be conducting a review … on what Bell's contingency plan is going forward here to address this kind of circumstance going forward," he said.

Celine Legault, a spokeswoman for the CRTC, confirmed the federal regulator doesn't retain reports on all service outages.

However, Ms. Legault said that a 2016 decision by the regulator determined Canadian 911 networks "are reliable and resilient."

"Following this decision, the CRTC is establishing requirements regarding notification of 911 service outages. The CRTC also requires that all 911 network providers file with it an annual report on 911 network outages that cause 911 service outages," she wrote in an e-mail.

Story continues below advertisement

The 911 systems continued to operate in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. A spokeswoman for P.E.I.'s Public Safety Department also said the 911 features on the Bell and Telus cellphones continued to work.

Paul Mason, the acting director of the Emergency Measures Organization in Nova Scotia, said the outage is a concern for his organization.

"We've had some preliminary discussions with Bell … and we'll have further discussions," he said.

Mr. Mason said the last major telecommunication incident in Nova Scotia was in December, 2015, when a workplace mishap in Halifax resulted in an outage in the capital.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies