Just called Telus for an update on things. Seems my problem is highly localized to the Kitchener Waterloo area. According to Customer Service, it's because they have experienced an inordinately high influx of activations and usage due to the two Universities and all the new students coming in. Apparently, this happens every year but usually only for a day or so. This year it's been much heavier, and they have been overrun. The rep. repeatedly referred to the area as a "dead zone", and that this issue was well known thanks to a LOT of calls in to service about it.
End result: wait and see. They are apparently well aware of it and working on it. He mentioned something about constructing a couple new towers, but I think that's a long term fix. Short term is likely to be just waiting and hope exams will stop the thumb twiddling. That wasn't what I wanted to hear, as the explanation does nothing to solve the issue, nor is there any real time frame for fixing it beyond "soon". While I realize it's not Telus's fault that a few thousand people came online in the same area all at once, you'd think they'd have thought of that before taking everyone in the area offline without telling them.
Meh. At least it isn't the phone.