Newfoundland Pondering Last Week's Telephone Exchange Fire

Newfoundland pondering second line to Nova Scotia in wake of phone outage Canadian Press

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. (CP) - Newfoundland is considering the construction of a second fibre-optic link to Nova Scotia to prevent phone and 911 services from shutting down as they did last week.

Premier Danny Williams says the province is scrutinizing the proposal by Rogers Communications, MTS Allstream Inc. and Persona Communications Inc.

Williams says a fire at a Bell Aliant switching station last Friday underscores the need for an alternative connection.

"It could have been much worse," Williams said Thursday.

A six-week-old child stopped breathing for several minutes during the outage, and had to be driven to a nearby hospital for help after calls to 911 failed.

"That alone is a significant, serious situation," Williams said. "There could've been a loss of life, so any time you're talking safety and life loss, that's obviously paramount."

An estimated 100,000 customers in the St. John's area were left without telephone and 911 services for five hours after a small electrical fire.

Internet access for all of Newfoundland was also wiped out.

Police have said it appeared no major emergencies were missed during the outage.

A spokeswoman for Bell Aliant said the station's main power supply and a backup were shut down to prevent the electrical fire from spreading. A technician extinguished the blaze with a fire extinguisher.

The company is investigating what happened to determine whether changes are needed to its system.

Copyright The Canadian Press 2006 Copyright 2006 CanWest Interactive

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