Terrace residents found themselves suddenly without internet, TV, landline or cellular phone service for more than eight hours on June 7 after a fallen tree damaged several Telus telephone lines and a fibre-optic cable — affecting northwestern B.C. communities west of Prince George.
Businesses, including gas stations and grocery stores, couldn’t process electronic payments and residents lined up outside the RBC branch on Lakelse Ave. to withdraw cash as other ATM machines around the city weren’t functioning.
Mayor Carol Leclerc said Telus employees visited City Hall during the lunch hour shortly after cellular coverage went down and told the city that the company expected the outage to last three or four hours.
Telus later predicted service to be back up and running only by the morning of June 8. It was finally restored after 8 p.m. June 7.
“It was very vague and so was the timeline [for service to be restored] because it certainly was much later in the day before everything was up and running,” Leclerc said.
“It impacted businesses. The restaurants weren’t able to do their lunch rush and dinner rush. It was just a bit weird not knowing how long it was going to be out or why it was out.”
The mayor said municipal buildings stayed open and staff revised their workflow to conduct what city business they could without the internet.
“It was a little bit challenging, but it was probably a good reality check on how much we rely on cell coverage,” Leclerc said, calling it a significant situation.
“We’ve always talked about emergency preparedness… It’s not like we lost water, or power or anything like that. But it’s just about being ready for the unexpected.”
CityWest stated it has committed to “laying fibre cables under the surfaces of land and water” instead of sharing above-ground poles to connect wires which they say is what most internet service providers have historically done.
BC Emergency Health Services recommended that in case of emergency people first try calling 9-1-1 (which operates separately from cellular) and if that service is unavailable to head to the nearest hospital, police or fire service if able.
Emergency services such as police, fire departments and EMS have radio communications.
With Black Press files from Jane Skrypnek and Kaitlyn Bailey.