RAY BROW: Time to say goodbye

Unfair long-distance telephone charges across rural P.E.I. should be eliminated

Published on March 20, 2017

With all the talk of getting high speed Internet established across the province there is another communications barrier that should be attended to with equal urgency.

Did you know in this day and age of the ubiquitous cell phone that there are still a large number of your neighbours with landlines … and that many of them cannot afford extra charges to give them a discount long distance calling plan service?

 

Cell phone users have the benefit of calling toll free from Charlottetown through to all corners of Kings County; however, many rural residents with landlines do not have the same cost-free privilege. Similar challenges exist in Prince County.

 

Despite aggressive competition on P.E.I. today from many communication providers, only one company provides landline phone service right across the province. Having such a phone service monopoly hurts rural residents.

 

With all the hard-wired technology in place - all long-since paid for - many rural Islanders face daily living costs their urban counterparts do not.

 

For example, in Kings County, landline folks in exchanges 687 and 961 have to pay long distance to call a business, hospital or even a government service centre in Montague.

 

This is simply unacceptable in 2017. It's a barrier for communication between friends and family members, and an extra cost to do rural Island business. Just ask the fellow who operates a home-based vehicle repair shop in St. Peters, about the hoops he jumps through to keep costs down in his one man garage business. Instead of calling his regular suppliers in Montague and incurring lost distance charges, which he must do several times a day, he calls Charlottetown toll free and asks an associated business to see if what he needs is in stock in the Kings County hub.

 

A young, casual, resident care worker living with her elderly parents on the family farm in Strathcona is looking for work, but is hesitant use their landline to phone the manor every day in search of badly needed shifts. She knows it will cost her parents money they don't have. Underemployed individuals in similar positions in Charlottetown or Summerside do not have these expenses.

 

Many Canadian geographical areas greater in size than all of Prince Edward Island are wholly accessible toll free via landlines.

 

Getting rid of long-distance charges across the province would encourage small businesses to call around the Island before incurring costs calling the mainland, and end this current barrier imposed on rural economic activity.

 

Further, such an initiative would not cost government a dime.

 

To achieve Island-wide toll free dialing, all that needs to be done is to strike a deal with Bell Aliant. A very small increase to all P.E.I. phone bills would replace the forfeited long distance revenue.

 

 

- Ray Brow of Georgetown Royalty