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Aliant infrastructure failure should be a call to action

A Bell Aliant landline outage across the province affected 911 services in various regions earlier this week. The outage lead to increased pressure on the cellular network and according to Bell Aliant the congestion on the cellular network caused some users to be affected
A Bell Aliant landline outage across the province affected 911 services in various regions earlier this week. The outage lead to increased pressure on the cellular network and according to Bell Aliant the congestion on the cellular network caused some users to be affected

Last week an infrastructure failure at Bell Aliant brought the province’s 911 systems to a veritable halt. Staff at 911 NL saw their ability to direct and respond to calls drastically reduced for 90 minutes.

A redundancy placed in the system by Aliant, which is supposed to prevent such an occurrence, also failed.

If having a large portion of the province cut off from emergency services with a swath of Bell landlines down across the island altogether is not bad enough, consider this: the resulting crush of Aliant customers using cellphones to compensate for the downed landlines in turn crashed Aliant’s cellular network, leaving some — perhaps all — Aliant customers on the island cut off from phone service altogether.

The outage put every affected Newfoundlander, and maybe even some Labradorians at risk.

How does that occur on an island with a population of less than a half million?

Surely Bell Aliant, offspring of the renowned Ma Bell, would not create or continue to use an infrastructure system inadequate that is inadequate to meet the needs of the people of the province — infrastructure relied upon by a large segment of the population for life-saving services?

It sounds like an episode of “The Twilight Zone”: Imagine, if you will, a bridge the width of four people, with no railings.

The bridge stands already full, its occupants perfectly balanced and organized.

Then, an influx of potential travellers surges toward the bridge bottling traffic on the entryways, the congestion leaving no clear path on or off the bridge.

Some occupants can still get off and continue to their destination.

Likewise, some can still travel onto the bridge.

Imagine that blindly unaware of one another, they continue to squeeze on.

Sooner or later with a few extra people on and no clear route off, people will start to fall off the sides.

Just like dropped calls.

Keep adding weight to the bridge and you have the potential for a collapse.

Which is what we can only assume happened last week to Bell Aliant’s cellular network.

A simple metaphor yes, but a cellular network is nonetheless similar.

We say “assume” because Bell Aliant isn’t talking, other than to confirm there was some kind of failure. Aliant has repeatedly ignored requests from The Advertiser to clarify the scope and cause of the failure.

That is not good enough. Not when the lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are put at risk.

Perhaps it’s time for our provincial government to create legislation requiring service providers explain catastrophic or potentially catastrophic infrastructure failures.

Because Bell Aliant’s response is again, simply put, not enough.

Before a potential catastrophe becomes realized, someone has to provide answers. 

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