Telus under fire

Incumbent telco Telus Corp. is picking up the pieces after a terrible month. October brought service disruptions, regulatory disappointments and even a shooting incident to the company.

The RCMP confirmed Thursday that shots had been fired at Telus’ Burnaby, B.C. headquarters on Oct. 22. Someone put four bullets through windows on the third, fourth and fifth floors, said Constable Phil Reid. He said the police are looking for a black Oldsmobile witnessed in the area near the time of the shooting, and a “bald” suspect.

Reid said it’s too soon to know if the incident is related to Telus’ other trouble.

“It’s certainly well noted, and even they admit that they’re having some sort of public relations problem in relation to their service…You’d hate to think something that simple is going to trigger someone, but you never know.”

Telus certainly is having problems. For instance, on Oct. 22 a construction crew working in Vancouver sliced through some critical fibre-optic cables and a number of working lines, part of the telco’s infrastructure serving some 2,000 residential customers and hundreds of businesses in an area surrounded by Main Street, Cambie Street (east to west), First Avenue and Broadway (north to south).

As a result people in the neighbourhood were without telephone and Internet service, said Karen Dosanjh, the firm’s spokesperson.

It took until Thursday to restore service. Meanwhile last week and earlier this week the firm had people going door to door in the locality explaining what happened, apologizing for the noise associated with fixing the situation – jackhammers – and giving out gift certificates. Telus also provided cell phones to customers with serious medical conditions so they wouldn’t be completely lacking communication.

Dosanjh said “extensive damage” was done and that it was “an incredibly time consuming process” to fix the cables and wires. She said the construction that caused the destruction was not related to Telus operations.

It has been a bad month for the phone company. Earlier in October Telus sent the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) its “quality of service results” for September – a list of QoS indicators designed to show how well, or how poorly, the telco is keeping up with customer service, repairs and other elements.

Telus missed its QoS targets when it came to clearing trouble reports within 24 hours and certain customer service criteria. It blamed “system difficulties” as well as “severe network outages, network stability issues and computer virus outbreaks.”

The Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU) suggested that Telus’ customer service problems were inevitable.

“The new management at Telus has made it impossible for us to provide you with the service you deserve,” the group said in an Oct. 24 letter to customers, asking them not to vent their frustrations on client-services reps. “They have slashed staffing levels by 30 per cent, removed thousands of jobs from communities across Alberta and B.C. and radically centralized their operations. It’s not surprising that service quality has declined so dramatically.”

As if service problems and gun shots aren’t enough, on Oct. 28 the CRTC denied Telus’ request to withdraw Dual Line Call Manager (DLCM), a service that spells easier management for Alberta customers with two phone lines. Telus had argued that the market for DLCM was dwindling, but the CRTC pointed out that customers would have to buy expensive phones to replace the service, so the product should remain up and running for existing users, if not new clients.

All of the above follows a not-so-nice summer for Telus, in which the company had to repair some of its B.C. cellular infrastructure after wildfires there destroyed important equipment. [Please see IT pros cope with B.C. fires.]

As for the most recent disruption in Vancouver, “this is one of the worst cases of underground cable infrastructure in Telus’ history,” said Barry Baptie, the firm’s executive vice-president, technology and operations, in a statement. “I would like to extend Telus’ sincere gratitude to our customers for their patience and to Telus team members who have been working around the clock to restore service under very difficult conditions.”

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