Long-term landline static puts Winnipeg couple on hold
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A west Winnipeg couple have been without a functioning Bell MTS landline for 1,776 hours and counting.
Debbie Roy and her husband Dewey say they have gotten only static since the problem began in the spring, despite claims by the telecom giant such issues are in the past.
“They come and it is fixed, but as soon as they leave, the static comes back,” Roy said Wednesday of the phone at her Downs Avenue residence.
“It is so frustrating. We’ve missed some very important phone calls. We’ve missed doctor calls and my husband, who is a drywaller doing odd jobs, has missed a couple of jobs.”
It’s the latest in a lengthy series of customer complaints about basic landline phone service (detailed in recent Free Press articles) that has not only plagued Bell MTS for months, but also resulted in the company having to provide monthly reports on the issue to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Bell MTS has told the CRTC the problem is past owners of the phone company didn’t keep up with repairs and let infrastructure slide. (The Manitoba telecom was a Crown corporation until 1996; parent company BCE Inc. took ownership in 2017.)
In the most recent report this month, Bell MTS told the CRTC while at one point there were customers waiting more than 1,400 hours before their landline was repaired, at the end of July, there was only a single outage lasting 168 hours or more.
However, the Roys said they and some other nearby residents began hearing only static on their line in the spring and, despite Bell MTS technicians showing up four times, nothing has changed.
Within hours of the Free Press communicating with a Bell MTS spokeswoman Wednesday, the company said a repair crew would be at the Roys house that day between 4 and 8 p.m.
Meantime, unlike many other Winnipeggers who have complained in recent months about landline problems, Debbie said they are still getting both Bell MTS TV and internet service.
“We will be watching TV when it says the phone line is on, but when we go to the phone it is just static.” – Debbie Roy
“We will be watching TV when it says the phone line is on, but when we go to the phone it is just static,” she said. “If our internet was down I’d be camping out at their offices, but it isn’t affected at all. I’m surprised about that.”
Roy said Bell MTS told them the problem is old copper wires coupled with excessive precipitation Winnipeg received this summer. “They said the would send a crew out to change the copper and put in fibre optic. They said they would notify us when this procedure would start. We are still waiting.”
Her husband finally went out and bought a flip phone at a department store for $25, and they keep having to buy more minutes for it while waiting for their landline to be fixed.
“Our neighbours have had the same problem and a few of them have switched over to Shaw,” Roy said.
CRTC spokeswoman Patricia Valladao said Wednesday the oversight body would be contacting Bell MTS to get further information about the customer’s situation.
“We are continuing to gather information from Bell MTS regarding outages in the Winnipeg area and the commission does take the issues seriously,” Valladao said, noting the next submission from the company is due Sept. 12.
Bell MTS spokeswoman Morgan Shipley said it appears the Roys’ landline needed “a complex cable repair… This Bell MTS cable also provides service to a neighbouring property that is experiencing similar landline service disruption.”
Shipley confirmed it wasn’t the first time a crew had tried to fix the problem.
“We did complete some work on Downs Avenue in early August, but have since identified that full service restoration requires a more complicated cable repair.”
Any Bell MTS customers with service issues can contact 204-225-5687, Shipley said.
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.