Many recent long-distance calls to and from Cambridge Bay have involved some degree of crackling and sometimes the line temporarily cuts out.
The problem has persisted for almost a month, varying between a nuisance and an obstacle to getting work done.
Marg Epp knows this all too well. As a member of a few national committees, the Cambridge Bay resident relies on the phone.
“Cellphones work good but the landlines are ridiculous. I’ve missed so many meetings and conference calls and I’ve been asked to hang up from meetings because it’s so crackly and so bad,” Epp said. “Living in the North, as you know, a lot of our business is done via phone. That kind of communication is vital to us.”
Jim MacEachern, Cambridge Bay’s assistant senior administrative officer, said he and others at the hamlet office have experienced similar challenges. As a workaround, he said he’s been hanging up and trying the call again. The audio quality usually improves the next time, he said.
MacEachern has contacted the phone company repeatedly to find out what’s being done to rectify the problem.
“I’ve talked with various people at Northwestel several times in the last few days and I know they’re looking at it and investigating it,” MacEachern said on Oct. 18.
Epp said she knows of someone else who complained to Northwestel’s troubleshooting service more than once, but it hadn’t produced results.
“Northwestel is not giving us any answers at all. They’ve kicked it up to their head office and their standard line is we’re working on it,” she said. “It’s really irritating.”
On Oct. 19, Matt Wallace, manager of external communications for Northwestel, responded to Nunavut News by email.
“We discovered an intermittent issue affecting long-distance calls to and from Northwestel customers in Cambridge Bay,” Wallace wrote. “It has been addressed and customer feedback since has been positive.”
Nunavut News subsequently placed two calls to Cambridge Bay. The first was clear, with no issues. The second was riddled with static and echoes.
Epp said the calls she made on Oct. 19 were clearer, although some of them were dropped.
“So maybe – just maybe – there is a solution in sight,” she said.