Little towns in BC shut out

Businesses blast Telus plan to retire analog cell service

A Telus plan to retire analog cellphone service in British Columbia on Monday is drawing fire from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“Anybody with an analog phone is going to be cut off on Monday, anywhere in B.C. Even if they are in a digital area, they are not going to have service as of Monday,” the federation’s B.C. director of provincial affairs, Brian Bonney, said in an interview.

Telus began notifying customers of its intentions a year ago, according to company spokesman Jim Johannsson, who said in an interview that the number of customers who have not switched to the Canadian telecom giant’s digital service is “a small fraction of one per cent” of its B.C. client base.

Telus is offering free digital phones to its remaining analog customers, who also have the option of buying higher-powered long-range phones at “way below our cost just to help them get into the phone network that’s best for their application,” Johannsson added.

He described the analog system as “first-generation cellphone technology” — and said it’s no longer possible to get replacement parts for the system, which was built in the 1980s.

“Today we are at third-generation cellphone technology and we are working at getting to the fourth,” Johannsson said. Rogers AT&T went fully digital last year, he noted.

However, the federation is worried that customer who have not made the switch — including those in rural settings who do not have land lines — will find themselves cut off from 911 services when the analog system is retired.

Bonney says Telus should hold off for a few months in order to ensure all of its customers are prepared for the switch.

Also, some rural areas now using analog technology won’t have access to the company’s cellular phone network because they are out of range of digital services, he said.

So far the group has specifically identified two particular clusters of customers, one in the Shuswap and one between Williams Lake and Quesnel who may lose their access. But there have been reports of “pockets all over B.C.”

ssimpson@vancouversun.com

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