Psychologist says poor cell service cut off client in distress


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A Winnipeg clinical psychologist says frequent, unresolved Bell MTS outages caused her to lose connection with a client in crisis.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/07/2022 (311 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Winnipeg clinical psychologist says frequent, unresolved Bell MTS outages caused her to lose connection with a client in crisis.

“I’m talking to them and assessing safety, and doing my job, and all of the sudden, the call drops,” Chantal Macdonald said of the incident this month after receiving a call on her cellphone from a client in a state of distress.

“This is an essential service, and I shudder to think what could happen if people can’t reach out when they’re in need.”

Shoddy cellphone service has wreaked havoc on Chantal MacDonald’s personal and professional life for more than a month. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

For nearly a month, Macdonald said shoddy cellphone service has wreaked havoc on her personal and professional life. Family and friends have been unable to consistently get a hold of her.

“It’s not reliable. Even when I do get a signal, people get booted off or people can’t hear me or I can’t hear them,” Macdonald said.

The most recent outage has lasted well beyond 168 hours, she said, adding she hasn’t been given an estimated time of service stability.

“I was told each time I spoke to a representative that they know about the problem — there’s a tower that’s not working properly — and that I’m not alone, and many people are without proper service,” Macdonald said.

“I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be comforting, but it’s not.”

The Free Press spoke to Macdonald on her cellphone Monday for just 40 seconds before the call cut out.

Macdonald, a longtime customer of Bell MTS, relies on a land line from a different provider. However, the nature of her job requires her to be on-call when away from home.

When Macdonald contacted the Bell MTS help desk, she expected it to be responsive to the issue; instead, representatives told her they understood if she needed to switch providers.

Macdonald said she was also told she wouldn’t need to pay for the service during the outage, but would need to go through the billing department herself.

“When I was sharing that there could’ve been a life-altering experience with my client when the call dropped, it felt like she wanted to get me off the phone,” Macdonald said. “I realized that calling them again is futile.”

In May, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued a letter demanding Bell MTS provide answers for customers facing service outages in Manitoba.

The letter said the outages were affecting customers’ ability to call 911 and connect to essential services.

In some cases, the connectivity issues caused the phones to dial 911 without the customer’s knowledge, causing police to show up at their doorsteps.

On June 22, the CRTC sent a follow-up letter requiring Bell MTS provide detailed data about outages and complaints received from customers until October 2022.

It also demanded the telecommunications giant send information about how they plan to resolve the outage and serve the telecommunications needs of the customer experiencing it for outages longer than 168 hours.

Macdonald wants to see a greater sense of urgency about service outages from Bell MTS. For mental health practitioners such as herself, a phone call can be a matter of life and death.

“I’m a lifeline to many of my clients, and when they can’t contact me, or rely on being able to contact me, that’s really alarming,” Macdonald said.

Bell MTS said it couldn’t comment Monday. On Tuesday, the company said customers in the North Kildonan area of the city had been experiencing service issues, but they should now be resolved.


Updated on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 12:56 PM CDT: Adds comment from Bell.

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