GUYSBOROUGH – For 18 days, Fraser Cook faced repeated drops in Internet service at his business, Cooks Gas Bar and Robin’s Donuts in Guysborough. For 18 days, he made inquiries and complaints to Bell Aliant Customer Care, saw Bell’s technical support team visit the store on two occasions and filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Throughout it all, Cook received no explanation and was offered no compensation for the inconvenience and loss of business the constant drop of Internet service, which is necessary for all debit and credit card-based transactions, had cost him.
And this isn’t the first time the telecommunications company has failed Cook as well as many others, both residential and business customers, in the Guysborough area.
At the end of August, Bell customers suffered through a three-day Internet outage and another multi-day outage after hurricane Fiona, despite Guysborough being one of the least affected areas hit by the storm.
Cook spoke to The Journal about this latest outage on March 23.
“They have sent technicians in twice. The first time to change our modem, the second time to check our modem. Tech support has actually reconfigured our modem remotely, but no solution. I called customer care; first time they were going to look into it, and I expressed our concerns. [I] never heard back from that lady yet.
“Call customer care probably four days later, my second call to customer care, they just shift me over to tech support again, which I talked to numerous times and, according to the second technician that was here, there’s no problems with any of our equipment at our location. He claims it’s a network issue,” said Cook.
He added, “We decided to lodge a complaint through the CRTC – that’s another whole kettle of fish,” added Cook, explaining the process that led him through several agency’s phone trees and resulted in him being told to file the complaint online.
And, while Cook has often spoken out about Bell Aliant’s poor service, he told The Journal that he knows other area businesses have also been impacted, including the office of Guysborough-Tracadie MLA Greg Morrow. As the only gas station in the village of Guysborough, when his payment systems are down, it has a knock-on effect for every resident and business in the area.
With more than one Internet service provider in the area, some may question why Cook has not given up on Bell by now. The answer is money.
Cook has looked into other options, Eastlink and satellite Internet services, but both would cost him thousands of dollars to set up; not a prospect any small business owner wants to face in this inflationary economy.
Cook said, “There doesn’t seem to be any easy fix. There are some places throughout our area here that are running fibre op or a dedicated line. I know some businesses are on what they refer to as a dedicated line – they have no interruptions.”
That’s the kind of service Cook needs to properly run his business, and he’s unsure why he isn’t getting it.
“When you’re the only fuel site in the village, this is not even a little bit acceptable…We’re not down completely, but we’re so completely intermittent, it’s terrible for business,” Cook concluded as he started his 18th day of business (March 23) in a row uncertain as to whether he could accept payment, other than cash, from his customers.
Later that day, Bell Aliant finally secured the line in Guysborough. A spokesperson for Bell Aliant sent the following comments to The Journal on March 28 regarding a request for information about the Internet failure, “Our team was able to resolve the intermittent Internet issue in the Guysborough area on Thursday last week. Unfortunately, it did take us some time to identify and correct the server issue and we apologise to our customers.
“We are happy to share that, through our partnership with Build Nova Scotia, Bell is expanding its fibre network to the Guysborough/Antigonish area in the coming months, which will deliver faster more reliable Internet to our customers,” the email read.
The Journal also contacted the province regarding the Internet issues in Guysborough last week. On March 28, a spokesperson for Build Nova Scotia, a provincial Crown corporation that develops strategic economic infrastructure, sent the following comments via email: “The community of Guysborough is covered by Eastlink’s existing footprint for high-speed internet, so it is generally considered served. There isn’t a provincial project in the community but Build Nova Scotia has recently been in touch with MLA Morrow’s office to better understand the issue that the office and Mr. Cook are having specifically.
“Build Nova Scotia has also reached out to an Eastlink contact, and they will be in touch with MLA Morrow’s office and Mr. Cook directly to look into possible solutions. If there is no viable solution, the Satellite Internet Service Rebate Program would be an option for both. This program includes addresses that cannot feasibly be reached with a fixed wireless or wired solution, as well as any address that currently does not have access to high-speed, even if in a current project area,” stated the email.
The Journal spoke with Cook on the morning of March 28 confirming that his Internet service had been restored on March 23. With the attention of the province now on the issue, he’s hopeful a long-term solution can be found to the Internet issues his and other businesses have been dealing with for months.