The Province is tabling legislation to demand local telecommunications companies be more accountable and ensure reliable service and better communication to Nova Scotians during emergencies.
Today, October 13, the government introduced amendments to the Emergency Management Act and the Emergency 911 Act that will require local telecom companies to be prepared in advance of a storm, to take all precautions possible to provide continued phone service during a weather event or other emergency, and to offer communication updates and transparency to customers.
“We need our telecommunications companies to step up and do better. We will no longer accept the status quo. We need to see significant improvements before the next storm or there will be significant penalties,” said John Lohr, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office. “Telecommunications is critical during and after any weather event and Nova Scotians need to be able to call 911 and connect with loved ones during an emergency.”
The amendments include:
— requiring telecommunications and other critical service providers to take reasonable actions to ensure the continuation of service
— requiring telecommunications and other critical service providers to develop an annual emergency response plan that must be approved by the Minister
— providing the Minister with the authority to require the physical attendance of telecommunications and other critical service providers at an established emergency planning and response table, and to require the critical service provider to share records related to their response to the emergency event
— giving a rebate to the customer equal to the financial benefit acquired by the telecommunications provider and other critical service providers from the customer while the customer was not receiving the service.
Failure to comply with the legislation and/or regulations could result in daily fines of up to $250,000 if convicted.
— many residents were unable to access telephone services to communicate with others or to access emergency 911 services in the aftermath of hurricane Fiona
— even though many Nova Scotians were disconnected from phone/internet/emergency services, they continued to be charged for these services by telecommunications companies
— emergency responders and electrical repair line personnel were unable to communicate with each other or with co-ordination centres, resulting in questions about what was being done to resolve problems in the aftermath of the disaster
— the Province sent a letter to the federal Minister responsible for telecommunications companies in Canada, calling on him to ensure telecommunications companies be more collaborative with the Emergency Management Office and transparent with Nova Scotians