Residents in Upper Clearwater say they have been without landline telephone service since Christmas. (Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

Residents in Upper Clearwater say they have been without landline telephone service since Christmas. (Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

UPDATE: Landline service to Upper Clearwater restored, some may still experience issues, says Telus

The communications company says it hopes to have repairs completed by end of next week

Update: A post to the local Facebook group from Thompson-Nicola Regional District Director for Area A Carol Schaffer contained an update to the telephone service in Upper Clearwater from Telus. In the statement, the communications company says service has been restored for residents, but notes static and intermittent service could be experiences by some customers.

“We are currently working to resolve this issue and would like to thank our customers for their ongoing patience,” the statements reads. “Our crews are aiming to have the necessary repairs completed by the end of next week.”

Jan. 4: Residents in Upper Clearwater who were without landline service for almost two weeks – the community’s sole means of communication – say their phone service has finally returned, but the quality has not.

Chris Nowak, whose landline service had been down since Dec. 24, told the Times the service was restored Jan. 3, but a crackling noise, distant echo when speaking and the voice cutting out makes it tough to have a conversation. Given the poor quality state of the service, he noted he is bracing himself for it to go out again.

Another Upper Clearwater resident, Nellie Krombach, also reported the same status with both of her landlines. She said one of the lines has an echo when she speaks and the other a “buzzing so loud it makes the phone useless.” Other residents have reported a similar experience.

Nowak made two attempts on Jan. 3 to call Telus. The first call was dropped, he said, but the second time he was able to get through and let them know about the ongoing issues.

In a response to a request for comment, Telus noted the extreme cold temperatures experienced over the holidays caused the network cables to be affected, leaving customers in the community without landline service. The statement added crews had fully restored the service after a short time, but the continued extreme low temperatures led to distrupted service a day later.

“We know how critical connectivity is for our customers, and we want the community to know that our crews are working tirelessly to fully restore their service once again as quickly as possible,” the statement from Telus reads. “We thank our customers for their patience.”

While a landline phone isn’t popular among urban households, it’s essential for many living in rural and remote areas due to poor cell and internet service in these areas. For those who live in Upper Clearwater, a community within the Thompson-Nicola Regional District approaching Wells Gray Provincial Park, a landline phone is the only way to communicate with friends, family, doctors and emergency services.

“We are very reliant on our landlines for communication as there is no cell phone service here and the satellite internet is not reliable for most,” Nowak said in a Facebook message.

With temperatures dipping to -30 C in some areas, poor roads and more snow in the forecast, members of the Upper Clearwater community are concerned how they would contact emergency services if an ambulance or other assistance were needed.

Nowak said that he was told each neighbour would need to report in their own landline troubles, something he noted is tough with little to no cell or internet service, and some families or seniors may not have online access at all to report the outage, or know how.

“We couldn’t call our loved ones during Christmas or New Year’s in a time when we can’t or shouldn’t be travelling,” he said. “It’s very troubling.”

Nowak added local RCMP and TNRD Director for Area A Carol Schaffer were notified of the outage in the case of an emergency.

Krombach said she and many others had been without landline service since Dec. 26. She also noted the importance of landlines for not only residents’ medical needs, but businesses as well, and her concern about the response from the telecommunications company.

“Despite numerous contacts with Telus, they don’t seem to take this seriously enough to restore service,” Krombach said in a post to the Clearwater Info Board group on Facebook on Jan. 2. “The residents are told conflicting messages and dates that service will be restored that go by, without service for any longer than 15 to 30 minutes.

“As the community continues without this essential service, we reach out to the larger community to help us be heard.”

The Facebook post garnered over 70 comments in under 24 hours, many also expressing their experience in other communities, such Avola or McBride. The post also caught the attention of two outspoken politicians, Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell and Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar, who both noted they have reached out to contacts at Telus.

“Thanks for this post and to others that have reached out to me,” wrote Milobar. “I have a call into Telus making sure they are aware of the situation and why it is unacceptable.”