Broken landline summons police to couple’s door

A West End couple had settled in for a quiet evening, but their malfunctioning telephone landline had other plans — it phoned 911 to alert Winnipeg police to come to their door.

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A West End couple had settled in for a quiet evening, but their malfunctioning telephone landline had other plans — it phoned 911 to alert Winnipeg police to come to their door.

Karen Kirk said for more than a week her phone wouldn’t let her call out, but people could call in.

On Friday, something bizarre happened.

“My line started calling 911 without my knowledge,” she said on Wednesday. “This happened three times, resulting in police officers attending my residence in person and dealing with the other calls via 911 phone operators.”

This week, numerous Winnipeggers have come forward to report their landlines have been out of service for days, weeks and even months. Bell MTS is accused of poor customer service and failing to respond to outages in a timely manner, including in the case of a senior who uses Lifeline.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press. Karen Kirk and husband Peter Ogrodnik in their west end home. Their landline telephone service was malfunctioning for more than a week and even dialled 911 several times, unbeknownst to them, leading to a late night visit from police Friday night.

In Kirk’s case, she said that late Friday she was already in bed, and her husband, Peter Ogrodnik, was watching television, when two police officers suddenly knocked on their door.

“They told my husband he had to get me out of bed to prove I wasn’t in trouble. And then, the next day, the 911 operator called, asking if I was in trouble or if it was my phone again.

“This is clearly a waste of police resources,” she said, adding a Bell MTS crew fixed the phone on Tuesday. “I sure hope the lines are truly fixed this time.”

A Bell MTS spokeswoman said this week the wet weather this spring is to blame for landline telephones, internet and TV services being disrupted for some customers.

“Our crews have been and continue to work as quickly as possible to restore all services,” Morgan Shipley said on Tuesday, adding customers can call 204-225-5687 for assistance.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Gary and Alexandra Moulder’s telephone pole in West St. Paul.

In fact, the residents in one Crescentwood neighbourhood — including a 90-year-old woman who uses the Lifeline emergency system — whose landline phone plight was detailed in Tuesday’s Free Press, got their service back later that afternoon when a Bell MTS crew arrived.

“The landline is working, the TV is good, and her Lifeline is working,” said the woman’s daughter.

“I can feel a little relaxed now that the Lifeline is working.”

But West St. Paul residents Gary Moulder, and his wife Alexandra, said their telephone landline has been completely out for two weeks and Gary said he has called Bell MTS many times.

The couple said they need the service because he is housebound due to mobility issues and he needs it for emergencies.

“MTS isn’t doing anything about it,” he said.

“They said the cable has deteriorated. One repair guy said it was too expensive so they don’t want to do it.”

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Gary and Alexandra Moulder at their West St. Paul home. Gary is housebound and uses a walker. His wife, Alexandra, worries he will not be able to call for help without a landline during an emergency.

Alexandra said she worries every time she leaves the house, including when she gets groceries.

“He is disabled,” she said. “If something happened to him, he would have no way of getting hold of me — they know that. We never had a problem when it was just MTS. It is only when Bell took over we’ve had problems.

“What do they care about Winnipeg?”

A resident in the Sanford area, whose phone line had so much static on it for a year that “the phone (was) basically useless,” said that after a year of fighting with Bell MTS to replace a worn-out cable, she took a different approach.

“I finally filed a complaint with the CRTC to get them to agree to lay a new cable last fall,” she said.

“It is not just city dwellers who have trouble with MTS. People in rural Manitoba are even more dependent on MTS as there are very few options for phone or internet.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is the federal regulator for telephone companies.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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