Service outage brings Atlantic Canada chaos

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HALIFAX – Many Atlantic Canadian consumers and businesses lost cellphone and other network services on Friday, in a widespread outage that hampered emergency communications, airports and other services.

Bell called it a “major service outage” affecting internet, TV, wireless and landline phones, with landline 911 service intermittent.

Flights were delayed at multiple airports, some consumers couldn’t use their debit and credit cards, and the TD bank said some branches in the region were “temporarily” closed.

“Bell apologizes for this situation and we are working to restore service as quickly as possible,” Bell’s Nathan Gibson said in a statement at about 1:30 p.m. AT.

The outages weren’t confined to Bell. Telus, which shares infrastructure with Bell, confirmed it is also down: “We’re currently investigating a network issue affecting mobility customers in the East.”

Telus said on its web site that a “possible fibre cut on Bell network” was to blame.

In St. John’s, N.L., Lauren Halliday said the outage came at a particularly bad time for her family: her sister is about to give birth.

“My sister is supposed to have a baby today or tomorrow so we were kind of sweating about that, making sure that she had a car to get to the hospital and stuff. And then I tried to make a few phone calls and nothing would go through,” she said Friday.

According to social media reports, at least some service was available with Rogers and Eastlink, although Eastlink said in a statement “an interruption impacting our network partners that may affect your ability to place calls.”

Halifax Stanfield airport said some flights were affected, and Air Canada said computer issues were impacting flights at multiple Canadian airports. WestJet said its Moncton call centre is “offline,” and asked customers to call later unless the matter was urgent.

The outage appeared to be affecting emergency communications in some parts of the region, and people are being advised to try non-emergency numbers to contact emergency services if 911 doesn’t work.

Cpl. Dal Hutchinson of the RCMP in Nova Scotia said its 911 service was working, depending on what cellular phone was being used to call in.

A tweet from the Emergency Measures Organization in the province said the best way to reach 911 was through a landline as of noon local time.

In St. John’s, a spokesman for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was busy preparing information for citizens needing emergency services.

Const. Geoff Higdon said Friday morning that “we have no idea of how wide (the outage) is. We can’t call Bell Aliant.”

Officials in Halifax said emergency services were available, although some first responders had issues with their phone service.

They said in a statement that the Halifax fire service told all volunteer firefighters to head to unstaffed fire stations “as soon as possible, to ensure smooth communication between our dispatch operators and individual stations as well as being on-hand to assist citizens who need emergency assistance.”

Emergency Health Services in Nova Scotia said it is “experiencing a province-wide communications outage,” and has told all on-duty crews to return to their stations in a tweet.

A tweet from the fire service in Gander, N.L., reports a “major outage,” and says 911 service is unavailable.

Fredericton police Sgt. Dave MacLean said while the public can access 911 service, all cellphone providers with the exception of Rogers were experiencing an outage.