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Canadian telecoms crisis plan could backfire: former executive

With Canada’s big telecom companies now tasked with developing a backup plan to mitigate the impact of future outages and other emergency scenarios, one former telecom executive says there is the risk of creating a situation where a competitor’s network becomes overwhelmed and service is ultimately degraded.

Former Telus chief financial officer Robert McFarlane says that while devising a strategy to ensure everyone’s phones are able to function on other networks if there’s a service outage makes “tremendous sense,” the telecom providers will have to be very thoughtful in their approach.

He says an additional challenge will be determining whether or not a provider should favour their own customers over those using that provider as a backup during an emergency situation.

Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met with Rogers chief executive Tony Staffieri and the head of several other telecom providers Monday afternoon and directed the companies to come up with a crisis plan.

This includes agreements on emergency roaming, a “mutual assistance” framework during outages and a communication protocol to “better inform the public and authorities during telecommunications emergencies.”

The meeting was called in response to last week’s widespread Rogers service outage that lasted at least 15 hours, days in some cases, knocking out access to health-care, law enforcement and banking services for many Canadians.

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