Rogers Communications network outage set to set off alarms

A week after the massive Rogers Communications network outage shook much of this country, millions of Canadians whose lives were impacted have two questions. What will the telecommunications giant do to catch up? And most importantly, what will Rogers, other players in this vital industry and the federal government do to ensure that nothing like this happens again?

This last question is something anyone in the country could ask. Unfortunately, after the passage of seven days, practical responses from Rogers and the government are insufficient. It’s as if when faced with a faulty laptop, their response is to unplug it, turn it back on, and hope it might work again. But while the purported cure may impress some people, chances are it’s not the fix we need.

What is needed, first of all, is for all parties to sincerely recognize that the Internet, cell phone and home phone services that were shut down last Friday and into Saturday are an essential part of life in Canada today, services without which this country cannot function. The outage occurred, oddly enough, following a “maintenance upgrade” Rogers was performing on its mainnet. When it happened, the outage left more than 10 million people without all those services they absolutely depended on.

Sick people could not access the 911 emergency service. Hospitals could not access their medical records. Companies and workers could not do their job. Business transactions were disrupted when the Interac payment system was down. Not only has this been a huge inconvenience for consumers, but it’s given another blow to businesses still recovering from their pandemic losses.

There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the subsequent full-blown apology from Rogers Communications CEO Tony Staffieri. It remains to be seen whether Rogers’ decision to credit its customers with the equivalent of five days of service will be acceptable to all who have suffered the reduction in service. Richard Leblanc, professor of governance, law and ethics at York University, calls the offer “wholly inadequate” due to the extent of the damage caused by the outage. Given that Rogers is already facing consumer backlash as well as a class action lawsuit filed against Montreal-based LPC Avocat Inc., the company could move beyond this first step, suggests Leblanc.

But the real elephants in the room are the incomplete remedies proposed so far. Certainly, the speed with which federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne rallied Rogers and Canada’s other major telecommunications players to prevent future outages was reassuring. On Monday, Champagne ordered them to reach an agreement aimed at strengthening the reliability of the network. His running orders would force wireless operators to help each other during network outages. They would also be required to provide customers with emergency roaming on their networks and follow a protocol to ensure customers are notified if something goes wrong. And to their credit, Rogers executives and some of the other industry participants at the meeting with Champagne say they support these network resilience initiatives.

While that may sound promising, some telecom industry sources point out that these moves would not have prevented or corrected last week’s massive outage, as the problem centered on Rogers’ core network. Champagne admitted as much, saying last week’s outage was “beyond” the help other telecoms could offer. “We want to put in place a much more formal process to ensure that, whatever the nature of any future failure, we would be better prepared,” he said.

So this is it. The government has taken the first steps in what will be a long journey towards wireless networks the country can rely on. But they count as small steps when giant leaps are needed. Opening up the industry to more competition is a touted solution. This is also worth considering. But would a large number of smaller operators provide a more efficient service or be able to react better in the event of serious problems?

What should be clear is that to carve out a slice of a multibillion-dollar pie, Canada’s private telecommunications companies must demonstrate that they have the best possible protections in place for telecommunications infrastructure. country’s wireless network. We are no longer talking about fancy conveniences, novelties or luxuries for the few. Just as this country can no longer function without a reliable power grid, it can no longer function without uninterrupted wireless networking systems. We must not forget the breakdown of Rogers. And consider ourselves warned.


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