HomePoliticsRogers outage: Government tells telecoms to reach crisis plan

Rogers outage: Government tells telecoms to reach crisis plan


Canada’s Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said he has tasked Canada’s major telecommunications networks with establishing a formal agreement to mitigate the damage of future outages.


Following a closed-door meeting with the CEO of Rogers and the heads of other telecommunications service providers on Monday, Champagne told reporters he’s given the group 60 days to consider emergency roaming, mutual assistance during outages, and building out a communication protocol to better inform the public and authorities of any emergencies.


Champagne said during the teleconference it’s a “first step” to tackle the resiliency and reliability of the sector.


The Rogers outage began early Friday morning and lasted about 15 hours, impacting millions of households and businesses. It also hampered customers’ ability to use emergencies services like calling 911.


Rogers says the “network system failure” was triggered by a maintenance update to the core network, which caused routers to malfunction.


While the company confirmed on Saturday most of its system was restored to the vast majority of customers, some are still reporting problems.


Champagne said he relayed to Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri his expectation that the company will compensate all those impacted.


“I expressed the frustration of millions of Canadians, I told him, this was unacceptable, full stop,” he said.


Staffieri said in his July 9 statement that the company will “proactively” credit all customers for the network outage, which will be automatically applied to individual accounts.


“We understand the significant impact Friday’s outage had on Canadians. We are committed to taking every step within our control to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Staffieri said in a statement Monday, after his meeting with Champagne.


He also mentioned that all impacted customers will be credited, but didn’t provide further details on the reimbursement plans. 


The minister also announced that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) would be investigating the source of the outage.


“CRTC inquiry will be one which will certainly inform the root cause and propose remedial action and we’ll take it from there. But certainly with a spirit of always doing more and using all the tools that we have as regulator to demand on behalf of Canadians that the networks are more resilient,” he said.


The event has brought about renewed calls for enhanced competition in the telecommunications space to mitigate the widespread impact of a future network failure.


Asked about what the government plans to do on this file, Champagne referred back to a revised policy directive published on May 26.


While light on detail, the policy would entail the CRTC “improve support” for service providers that want to offer internet and mobile services at lower cost to Canadians.


“It says very clearly, what is in my mind, in terms of what needs to happen in Canada, which is additional competition, and always striving for more affordability,” Champagne said.


The outage happened against the backdrop of a pending telecommunications merger that would see Rogers buy Shaw Communications for $20 billion, if approved.


The industry minister weighed in on the issue on Monday, noting Ottawa won’t allow a deal without conditions being met.


“I’ve said very clearly and openly that I will not allow the wholesale transfer of licences from Shaw to Rogers, and I think this is well understood. And the framework of mine, when I look at these things, is all about affordability, affordability, affordability and competition,” he said.


Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, former industry critic, tweeted on Friday that she wrote to all members of the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology to hold an emergency meeting about the outage and sector competition more generally.


“This outage underscores another potential risk provided by the current federal regulatory structure. That is, potential significant national vulnerability to a prolonged service outage given the lack of diversity in Canada’s telecommunications providers,” the letter reads.


The NDP also released a statement responding to the events and criticizing the government’s decision to meet with Rogers.


“Minister Champagne meeting with Rogers as a top priority shows that the Liberals are fixated on protecting the profits of telecom giants instead of helping Canadians. People need accountability here— what happened was unacceptable,” a statement from Leader Jagmeet Singh reads.


It goes on to state that the NDP will also look to bring Champagne and others before committee to get answers.

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