Three-day Internet service disruption impacts Guysborough-area businesses

·4 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – Last week didn’t start well for many in the Guysborough area who were Bell Aliant Internet customers. The service to home and business clients was intermittent, at best, and completely unavailable for hours at a time from Monday (Aug. 29) morning through to Wednesday (Aug. 31) afternoon.

While Internet service outages are extremely inconvenient for private individuals, for businesses the outage resulted in lost revenue, an inability to provide service to customers and an increased workload for staff.

Fraser Cook, owner/operator of Cook’s Gas Bar and Robins — the only gas station serving the communities of Guysborough and Boylston — told The Journal the outage had impacted his business “horribly.”

Cook said, “We’re running a fuel site and so a lot of people coming to the area, [are] often using their cards; visa, debit cards…we don’t have an ATM in here, so it was forcing our clients to use cash only. It’s not a cash-only type of world these days.”

He added, “We have a drive through system at our coffee shop that was affected negatively, and gas pumps which people had to come up to and realize they had to have cash to purchase their gas. Now our locals that we know, we put a slip aside and they got their gas and came back with the cash. Customers that we don’t know, it’s a little more difficult.”

Cook contacted Bell Aliant only to be told that, “They were working on it.”

To determine the reach of the Internet outage, Cook contacted other Guysborough-area businesses and found out that those with Bell as an Internet provider were experiencing the same issue.

“And it was intermittent so … it’s almost impossible to take down your ‘cash only’ notices because, ok, one guy’s [card] works and the next guy’s doesn’t. You’re in limbo. You really have to wait until you know for sure. And the other unfortunate thing is we’re not contacted by Bell to tell us, ‘You are up and running.’ So, it’s a guessing game. It’s the not knowing when you’re going through it,” said Cook of the frustration of the three-day interruption of Internet service.

The Old Court House Museum and Visitor Information Centre (VIC) in Guysborough was also impacted by the Internet service disruption. Museum curator Mary Armstrong said, “Interruption of Internet service certainly makes the job more difficult with visitors and museum work alike.”

The museum and VIC in Guysborough offer services to the public that rely on Internet service such as open access Wi-Fi, hotel and provincial park bookings, and provision of information about local areas of interest.

Armstrong said, “Internet is not optional anymore.”

The Great Canadian Dollar Store in Guysborough also experienced drops in Bell Internet service from Monday to Wednesday last week. Staff told The Journal the store experienced long line-ups with many customers leaving products behind when they couldn’t pay due to the Internet service disruption.

“It’s definitely been challenging,” Dollar Store clerk Connie Prevost told The Journal.

Dollar Store Assistant Manager Wanda Pinkham told The Journal she had been using her personal cell phone data plan to bridge the gap in service, adding that the service disruption had affected store sales.

With goods left at the counter which then had to be re-shelved, ringing up customers who had cash to buy goods, and putting new product out on the floor, Prevost said, “It’s taking us twice as long to get something done than what it would normally take.”

And when the Dollar Store staff made inquiries as to when Bell expected the issue to be resolved, “They’re saying between three hours and three days,” Prevost told The Journal.

On Aug. 30, The Journal contacted Bell Aliant to request information about the Internet outage and was told by a company media spokesperson via email, “We had a temporary Internet disruption in the Guysborough-area yesterday that lasted a few hours. Service has since been restored.”

The service disruption continued, intermittently, through to Wednesday.

On Aug. 31, further inquiries by The Journal received the following response via email from a Bell Aliant media spokesperson: “We had an equipment issue at the central office, the equipment has been replaced and Internet service is restored.”

Further inquiries asking for more information on the type of equipment and the location of central office didn’t receive a reply before the newspaper went to print.

Since only Bell Aliant customers suffered from this Internet outage, municipal representatives weren’t immediately aware of the situation.

On Sept. 5, Municipality of the District of Guysborough’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Shawn Andrews told The Journal via email that he had contacted the emergency management office, “as soon as I was made aware of the outage, which I think was Wednesday before lunch…they quickly engaged their Bell contacts, but the service was restored before needing anything further…I’m not aware of what the issue was.”

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal