July 8 failure | Unpredictable and unprecedented, Rogers claims

Rogers executives say they could not have predicted the July 8 outage that crippled 911 calls and direct payments across the country. Despite the scale and severity of the problem, it took the CEO several hours to notify Minister François-Philippe Champagne’s office.

Posted at 6:11 am
Updated at 6:03 p.m

Mylene Crete

Mylene Crete
The press

(Ottawa) Mea culpa

“We weren’t the most reliable network in Canada that day,” Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri admitted during his testimony Monday before the Industry and Technology Standing Committee. This day of hearings was organized by Parliamentary Works in the middle of the summer recess to highlight the outage that left around 10 million Rogers Communications customers out of service. The “unprecedented” outage caused by a software update hit “the brains of our network,” new chief technology officer Ron McKenzie said. The implementation of this update was planned in seven phases and there were no disruptions in the previous five phases. Preliminary tests had not revealed any abnormalities either.


Tony Staffieri, CEO of Rogers

Mr Staffieri said he regretted not notifying Minister Champagne’s office immediately when the outage prevented access to emergency calls and crippled the Interac system. The company has promised to inject 10 billion over the next three years to improve its testing, among other things, and intends to separate its mobile networks and the Internet to avoid a simultaneous collapse of the two services. She reiterated that she was offering her subscribers a five-day credit. It was the second failure in just over a year. The first took place on April 19, 2021.

Calls could not be forwarded to 911

A protocol already existed to route 911 calls from Rogers customers to another network, but it failed during the July 8 outage. “For very specific technical reasons, that automatic transfer didn’t happen,” the CEO admitted in response to a question from Conservative MP Tracy Gray. This information calls into question the agreement that the big players in this sector must reach, at the request of the Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, to ensure that emergency calls come back at all times. “I didn’t ask them, I asked them to sign a formal contract,” stressed Mr Champagne during his testimony, specifying that “this is just the beginning”. They still have 45 days to do this. Tony Staffieri assured that he will live up to expectations.

Conservative MPs Bernard Généreux and New Democrat Brian Masse did not hide their skepticism. “What will the penalty be if the companies cannot agree? asked Mr. Généreux. “The good faith of telco bosses shouldn’t depend on their goodwill or whether or not you play golf with them,” argued Mr Masse. Rogers’ CEO repeatedly avoided saying during his testimony whether he considered Rogers’ services, particularly mobile telephony, to be an essential service. He also refused to quantify Rogers’ gains, saying only that this information was already public.

Shaw and Rogers merger

The role of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Shaw acquisition have been criticized by three experts and by the president of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a consumer advocacy organization. The telecoms industry has five major players in Canada, which account for 87% of the market: Rogers, Bell, Telus, Shaw and Videotron, said Carleton University communications professor Dwayne Winseck. If Rogers buys Shaw, it will own a third of the market. “There is too much control over critical communications services that would be in the hands of a single company,” he said. It’s risky, it’s a bad idea, and I urge elected officials to block this transaction. »

Rogers CEO defended takeover of $26 billion that would give him “an alternative network”. The competition office is against it and the case is now before the court. The lax policies of the CRTC, which regulates the telecoms industry, have been denounced by these experts. The CRTC is set to investigate the Rogers failure but ruled out a public inquiry. The idea was raised of adopting a consumer charter to provide a framework for compensation to be granted. When asked several times whether new powers were needed, President Ian Scott pointed out that nothing could have predicted this collapse and that the reliability of the internet and mobile networks can be guaranteed by the industry.

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