No Telephone Service in Coalmont

Right in the middle of a conversation I was having on the telephone yesterday afternoon, blip, the line went dead – it still is.

This is not unusual and we’re used to it. Talking with people who have been here for a long time, it becomes clear that we’ve had rotten lines for some years now. Sometimes it takes a day, but often the phones are back in a few hours. However in this case it looks like they’re going to be down all night as well.

For those who don’t live here – let me explain. We have had telephone service in this town since it’s inception in 1911. The first line came in with the railway as is usual in these little places. I don’t know how the lines were installed in the intervening years, but about 30 years ago they put in a cable. This cable follows the mountainous Coalmont Road and in some places just lies in the rocky ditch. You can see a piece of it sticking out just as you enter town. We have no cell phone service but are lucky enough to have gotten a wireless internet service which is several times faster than dialup, but unfortunately not fast enough to connect an internet phone.

Because of the constant rockfall along the road, the road crews have to dig out the ditch once or twice a year. They also have to plough the snow for some months. The obvious result is that the poor old cable gets snagged. Apparently it is also past it’s prime and at this point it frequently causes unbearable noise, often for months on end, and circuits just give out without any human intervention.

Calls to Telus are sparse because when the phones go out – you can’t use the phone. This might be obvious to many readers, however it is not an easy task to explain this to a Telus service representative whose intelligence is tied to a script. People in Coalmont have also given up complaining about it and Telus probably likes it that way.

Today, several of us with a bit of internet savvy, contacted Telus via on-line chat. Some of the “conversation” was downright ludicrous. Nevertheless, at this point I know what to say so as to avoid half an hour of “what is your number” and “we’ll send someone to your house within two weeks”. I decided that I would give it a second try late at night, to see if they had taken us seriously yet. Here is a part of that conversation:

02:28:33 : Welcome! Thank you for using TELUS Chat Support, please be advised that your chat session will be recorded to ensure a quality customer experience.
02:28:33 : Ole Juul: Initial Question/Comment: The Town of Coalmont telephone system is still dead. We cannot call to register a complaint because we have no working telephones in the town. Cell service is not available here. Can we expect any repairs tonight, or will the town be without telephones all night?
02:28:49 : John has joined this session!
02:28:49 : Connected with John. Your reference number for this chat session is xxxxxx.
02:28:56 : John: Welcome to TELUS Support Centre. My name is John and I’ll be helping you today.
02:28:58 : John: Could you please provide the telephone number and service address for this account?
02:29:13 : Ole Juul: Hi John. This is not an account, this is a small town.

This was followed by a little more chit chat that didn’t convince me that anything out of the ordinary (such as fixing the problem) was going to happen here. I gave him a list of example numbers for our town and he said he would write up a report, adding that “I’m not sure at this point when a technician will be able to resolve this issue, but I assure you that we’ll do everything we can to resolve this as quickly as possible.” That is about as helpful as Telus gets with these matters. Although I did elicit a little more sympathy.

02:45:45 : John: It’s my understanding from your history that there is no cell coverage for the town, no number that we can reach someone at if a technician needs to speak to someone?
02:46:10 : Ole Juul: That is correct. There is no telephone connection whatsoever.
02:47:57 : Ole Juul: If it is a matter of line testing, I can stay up and be available – although it is almost 3am now.
02:48:24 : Andrew: Okay, thank you. Again, I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I’ll have this looked at as soon as possible.
02:48:39 : Ole Juul: Should I stay up?
02:48:40 : John: No, that’s fine. You can go to bed. This will likely need a technician dispatched.
02:49:23 : Ole Juul: OK. Thank you. Hopefully this will get fixed before there are any problems.
02:49:51 : John: You’re welcome. Thank you for using TELUS Support Centre.
02:49:59 : Ole Juul: Goodnight.
02:50:30 : John: Good night, Ole.
03:15:21 : John has left this session!
03:15:21 : The session has ended!

So John thinks “this will likely need a technician”. Good call. We’re getting somewhere! Hopefully our inability to call 911 in case of an emergency won’t be important tonight and for however long – nor when the line breaks next week. I also hope that people’s fire insurance doesn’t eventually get effected. Anyway, although most of the western world takes telephone service for granted – we don’t. And that’s just one more thing that makes Coalmont special.
~ Ole Juul

One thought on “No Telephone Service in Coalmont”

  1. It is now 5:53 am and I just got off the online chat line with Telus. The lines are still down and this was my conversation with Brent:

    5:40:39 AM : Brent: I do see this is in dispatches hands but no update as of yet I am sorry.

    5:41:08 AM : Diane Sterne: So what is our entire town supposed to do without 911? It has been almost 14 HOURS now!

    5:41:45 AM : Brent: All I can advise is this is being worked on but no ETA. I am sorry but there is not updates until the issue is resolved.

    5:42:19 AM : Diane Sterne: Is anyone actually working to fix this problem as I type or are we still waiting for someone to come out?

    5:42:59 AM : Brent: Testing has been done, but no updates at all.

    5:43:25 AM : Diane Sterne: So you have tested to know that our system is down but no one is physically out here doing anything – Is that correct?

    5:43:45 AM : Brent: No one is on site.

    5:43:58 AM : Diane Sterne: Unacceptable. I want to speak with a supervisor!

    5:44:09 AM : Brent: I am sorry but we do not have one.

    5:44:20 AM : Diane Sterne: The CRTC has been contacted.

    5:44:25 AM : Brent: Dispatch is not open as well until 7 AM

    5:44:43 AM : Diane Sterne: Unacceptable.

    5:45:20 AM : Brent: Under the terms of service I am sorry the process is well under way and will be resolved.

    5:45:32 AM : Diane Sterne: Good bye.

    5:45:55 AM : Brent: I hope all goes well Diane. Thank you for contacting TELUS Landline Support.


    On Sept. 16 I contacted the CRTC to complain about the frequent outages in Coalmont. They said Telus would be contacting me which they did. Telus offered one month free service but when I asked what was being done to make sure these outages stop they couldn’t answer me. I said that since our town has no cell service, we should be flagged as an emergency situation when the phones go out. I also said that when this happens a Telus truck should be immediately sent to the entrance to town with a radio telephone that locals can use in an emergency. They wouldn’t agree to do that.

    I have once again contacted the CRTC so we will see what, if anything, is done.

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