An act of God knocked out the phone lines to a Winnipeg church, but parishioners who have been waiting too long for Bell MTS to fix the problem have decided their prayers will be answered by Shaw.
St. George’s Anglican Church in Crescentwood has been without phone service for about two weeks.
Andrew Thomson, an executive member of the church, said phone service has been problematic for several years, generally after it rains. Last fall, the issue appeared to have been resolved.
But Thomson said about two months ago they began having problems again, and last month one of the church’s two phone lines dropped dead after one of the recent downpours the city has been hit with this spring.
"The second line is used for fire protection," he said. "But when that line went out, everything switched over to that remaining line. Then line two ended. Right now, we have no (fire) monitoring."
“The second line is used for fire protection... But when that line went out, everything switched over to that remaining line. Then line two ended. Right now, we have no (fire) monitoring.” – Andrew Thomson
Thomson said a parishioner, who has been dealing with Bell MTS on the church’s behalf, was told last year by the company that underground wires had been damaged and had become wet.
This time, Thomson said Bell MTS told the parishioner it either can’t or won’t repair the landline and it can’t say when fibre optic lines will be installed in the area.
"A week ago, we switched to Shaw for internet and today we are meeting with a cable company to see if we can go with that for our telephone service," he said. "It will cost us thousands of dollars, but we don’t have any option.
"MTS has no intention to do anything about it or they weren’t prepared to address it… they don’t seem to think this is a big deal."
The church is blocks away from a group of Crescentwood residents who complained to the Free Press this week that they have been without landline service from Bell MTS since early April.
One said she’s had problems for almost a year.
Sella, who is 90 years old, said she is particularly upset about the phone outage because her Lifeline emergency system needs her landline working in case she has to call for help. She said she can’t switch the Lifeline to a cellphone because Bell MTS staff have confirmed she has no cell service in her neighbourhood.
"I just stay calm," Sella said on Monday. "But after a year, you have to complain."
Another area resident said a Bell MTS work crew suddenly showed up Tuesday afternoon and began working on the lines.
Morgan Shipley, a spokeswoman for Bell MTS, said she didn’t get messages for comment from the Free Press on Monday because her phone and internet, provided by Bell, were out of service.
"Internet, TV, and landline telephone services have been disrupted for some customers in the Crescentwood area due to multiple cables being damaged by water amid Manitoba’s excessively wet spring," Shipley said on Tuesday.
"Our crews have been and continue to work as quickly as possible to restore all services. Any customers with service issues can contact us at 204-225-5687 so we can assist."
“Internet, TV, and landline telephone services have been disrupted for some customers in the Crescentwood area due to multiple cables being damaged by water amid Manitoba’s excessively wet spring.” – Morgan Shipley, Bell MTS
As for the spotty cell coverage in the area, Shipley said the company had proposed to erect a new antenna tower in the area in 2016. That proposed site, atop an MTS property on Niagara Street, ran into vociferous opposition from area residents.
"We continue to explore opportunities for new sites to augment wireless service in the community."
The church is not the only one without phone service in the neighbourhood.
Barbara Rempel said both she and her husband rely on the landline and it has been out for days.
"We had no problems with our phone until (two weekends ago) when we had the rain," she said. "We’ve had no landline service since then."
But while speaking with Rempel, who was on a flip cellphone, suddenly a long ring was heard near her.
"It seems to be working now," she said coming back on the phone. "When I first called, they said it would be fixed tomorrow and we were on day nine. I was getting frustrated.
"You don’t know what you depend on until you don’t have it."
Crescentwood isn’t the only area of the city where landlines have been out of service.
About a dozen people contacted the Free Press in response to Tuesday’s story about downed phone service. From St. James to Fort Rouge to East St. Paul, they all said they had tried for weeks to get their service restored. Some are still waiting and others are back online after a long period of being cut off.
Samantha Turenne said her parents near Nassau Street and McMillan Avenue were without service for more than four months last year.
"They were completely given the runaround," she said. "It turned out to be a problem with securing a part that was needed to fix the line — at least that is what they were told after multiple calls.
"While waiting for the phone line to get fixed, they had to increase the voice and data on their cellphones, at their expense, so that they would have a way to stay in touch with family and friends."
Reg Evans, who lives in Fort Garry said his landline came back on last week after being out for three weeks.
"MTS is a totally frustrating company to deal with as they have long waits to connect with a service representative and then an unbelievably poor dispatch system," he said.
“MTS is a totally frustrating company to deal with as they have long waits to connect with a service representative and then an unbelievably poor dispatch system.” – Reg Evans, customer
Evans said the company made an appointment for the repair, but nobody came and, when he called the next day to find out what had happened, they said they were too busy so a crew wouldn’t come for at least a week.
"I howled in frustration and started calling twice a day," he said, noting a technician who finally came on Easter Sunday said the cable itself needed to be repaired and that could take a year.
When he called Bell MTS, and they looked up his address, he was told although fibre optic was coming to his neighbourhood, a postal code search found he was still in an area where crews were repairing wires.
"The program is run by Bell and that is what we Manitobans have, like it or not."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.