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Storm-linked phone problems plague Hamilton businesses

A variety of businesses were yesterday still dealing with annoying communications issues caused by the weekend lightning storms, with telephone systems malfunctioning across Hamilton — five days later.

Even the Government was not immune, reduced to waiting for replacement parts to fix their main telephone exchange.

Callers to the main Government number (and many others) hung up in disgust because there was no connection at the other end.

Just after high noon, Public Affairs Officer Helen Jardine from the Department of Communication and Information, sent an e-mail to enlist the media's help: “Please could you assist us in advising the public that, due to the lightning damage to the Government telephone system over the weekend, hardware components associated with the voice mail system have been damaged and will need to be replaced.

“The voice mail for 295-5151 is therefore currently not yet operational. Further updates on the situation will be provided in due course.”

If there was a tone of surrender in that statement, Government officials were not the only ones frustrated.

By some reports, more than 50 businesses in the City — several along Front Street — had suffered some level of service interruption to their telephone systems and modems. Many were still waiting for the resumption of full service yesterday.

After years of expecting telephones to work on command, an e-mail exchange yesterday afternoon from a senior business executive was telling.

After three business days of not hearing the telephone ring in a busy office, the unsolicited comment was: “It's been hell!!!”

Others in quieter offices were more stoic. Mariae Dixon, office manager at Front Street architectural firm, Entasis, took it in stride. She said: “Thankfully, we still have cell phone service and the internet.”

Her corporate neighbour Rhona Emmerson, President of leading advertising agency AAC Saatchi & Saatchi, said: “We've been really busy this week, as the conference coordinator for the Bermuda Captive Conference, which starts this weekend. So the challenges with the telephones have meant we have had to make some adjustments.

“But I've heard there have been phone troubles all down Front Street to the Cabinet Office.”

Working to fix the problem were crews believed to be from several companies — including Belco and BTC, together with companies who service PBX systems (phone systems) such as ACT, CCS, Comtech, and Decisions.

CEO of Applied Computer Technologies Ltd (ACT), Dave Bart, said his firm dealt with a dozen customers who reported faults.

But he said, “Any customers who have a maintenance contract with us, and who reported an issue to us, were up and running at least by the next day.

“We scheduled three engineers to deal with the problems. One of our first calls was in the middle of the night after the storm at Rosedon (Hotel). We got an engineer up there to resolve the problem, once we were contacted.

“But many people won't realise immediately the not so obvious infrastructure problems, as a result of a storm, that could impact their telephones.

“It's never the same for every client. It could be different systems causing the problem.”

A BTC spokesman, Jennifer Mahoney, VP marketing, agreed that many customers had issues that were not so clear cut.

She said: “There haven't been any outages of (our) equipment or facilities damage as a result of the extreme weather. This was not an issue related to BTC's equipment or facilities, we have tried to free up staff to assist these customers in any way possible.”

She said: “It's difficult to provide a number (of how many customers were affected) as the issues are related to customer premise equipment and not their physical lines. We have seen a spike in business faults and think there could be roughly 50 businesses that are experiencing issues.”

She echoed an ACT concern that businesses and residential customers should quickly contact service providers as soon as there is a problem.

It's clear that many customers assumed that the appropriate firms would be aware of the problems and didn't make contact in a timely fashion.

She said: “I think that reminding the general public of preventive measures is always a good idea. Whenever extreme weather is expected they should take necessary measures to protect their equipment.

“Modems, routers and PC's should be removed from both electrical outlets and also internet access points (DSL ports) to ensure electrical surges do not impact their equipment.

“They should also be reminded surge protectors are designed to prevent this type of mishap, but power strips do not.”

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Published May 30, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 29, 2014 at 11:19 pm)

Storm-linked phone problems plague Hamilton businesses

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