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Ice storm cuts some Net access

The "storm of the century" that hit eastern Canada last week has left many residents disconnected from the Net, a service provider says.

The "storm of the century" that hit eastern Canada last week has left many residents disconnected from the Net and other forms of communication.

Freezing rain thrashed parts of Ontario and Quebec starting January 5, downing phone lines and cutting power for an estimated 3 million residents. The provinces were declared under a "state of emergency."

Without power, many of the area's online access providers were unable to run their Net servers or modems. In addition, about 2 percent or 140,000 of Bell Canada's 7 million local phone customers were completely without service, so they couldn't access the Net through analog phone lines for anywhere from one to nine days. And in Montreal, Quebec, many businesses have remained closed, including some high-tech companies.

"Network status is normal today," said a representative from Internet Microtec in Montreal. "During the whole weekend it was out, and we had a problems this week, too."

Bell Canada also offers dial-up and ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) Net access, but its backbone and network weren't directly affected by the storm. Customers whose phone or electrical service was out, or who lived in an area where Bell Canada lost a switch center, wouldn't have been able to get online.

Bell Canada said its phone service will be fully restored in Ontario by Monday. Some electrical lines could still be down, however, which means Bell will have to rely on back-up power supplies for call switch centers' services, for example.

"It was, like, 'devastation city' in Quebec. Some areas are still out of power," Irene Shimoda, a spokeswoman for Bell Canada, said today. "We had to bring in additional generators to power some large switching offices up in Quebec and Ontario."

Bell still has to reconnect about 10,000 lines in the Ottawa Valley of Ontario, for example. But repairs can only be made while the storms hold off.

"If the weather takes a turn for the worse, we'll end up having to slow down again," Shimoda added.