No dial tone: Florence residents, library have been without Bell landline service since Dec. 23


Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

Shirley Sewell found out her landline wasn’t working after Christmas.

“No one was calling here, but I could call out,” she said. 

The Florence woman called and left a message about an appointment but didn’t get a call back – or so she thought. The office reached out to her daughter and asked why Sewell wasn’t answering her phone. That was when she realized she had a problem.

She called Bell and was told it would be fixed the next day but when the phone rang later, she discovered she had even lost the dial tone. Sewell called again and was told Bell would fix it by Dec. 31. By Jan. 3, Sewell was still waiting for a repairman.

The Sewells aren’t alone in their concerns. Shirley raised the issue on social media Tuesday asking if others with a Bell landline were having trouble.

People reported outages in Florence, Oakdale and on Lambton Line. Some voiced concern that people with Lifeline Medical Alert services need a land line. Many had been given several dates when the issue would be repaired, but it has not yet been resolved.

Some businesses, including at the Florence Public Library, were also without service.

Darlene Coke, manager of Library Services at Lambton County, said the Florence library was supplied with a cell phone and the new number was put on the library’s website. It has been a challenge to reach some library patrons with 692 phone numbers, she said, and it has been a challenge to get the word out quickly that the library is using a temporary phone number.

“We have been provided with a few different restoration dates since the outage occurred, “ said Coke. “The most recent is that the line would be repaired today (Wednesday) between 2 pm and 5 pm, however yesterday, we were advised a technician visit for today had been cancelled.”

While many people have ditched their landline or might not notice if their landline wasn’t working, for Sewell, it’s a big issue. Her husband had a stroke and due to the paralysis it caused, he can not hold a cell phone. When Sewell is away, he relies on an old rotary phone, which he can handle, and an answering machine where he can get messages.

The Independent of Petrolia and Central Lambton reached out to Bell about the outage, but a response has not yet been received.

This is not the first time Bell Canada has faced criticism for landline outages. In May, the Canadian Radio Television Telecommunications Commission demanded answers after Manitoba were left without landline service for days on end. Some faced outages of more than a month.

“The CRTC is demanding answers from Bell MTS after the Winnipeg Free Press reported on the plight of customers who had to cope with downed landline service for weeks, and even months, while the company failed to make repairs,” wrote the executive director of the CRTC’s telecommunications division.

Fiona Gilifan added under the Telecommunications Act the CRTC must ensure people in both urban and rural areas ” have both reliable and affordable telecommunications services.”

The Local Journalism Initiative supports the creation of original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada.