Devastating Rogers Outage a ‘Wake-Up Call’ for Canada, Say Experts

After the Rogers network outage on Friday left millions of Canadians without phone and internet access, experts are criticizing the country’s telecom industry and, by extension, the federal government for the sheer dominance of a single provider — reports CBC.

Friday’s downtime did more than just leave Canadians unable to connect to the internet or make calls.

The Interac system used by over half a million merchants for debit payments and by citizens to make e-transfers was rendered unusable, government infrastructure and services went offline, businesses and public transit couldn’t process cashless payments, and even the ArriveCAN app was affected.

To top it all off, there was no backup plan in place for something like this despite the daylong Rogers outage last April.

“We have become remarkably fragile because of the rapid pace of innovation and the rapid pace of implementation of new techniques and new forms of technology,” said Dan Ciuriak, an economist and senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance and Innovation.

Ciuriak said the service blackout needs to be a “wake-up call,” not only for Rogers but for Canada’s wireless communications infrastructure as a whole. Some Canadians were even warned they might have trouble getting through to 911. That is in spite of CRTC regulations requiring wireless operators to ensure users are able to contact 911 even without wireless service.

“We’re talking about moving into the Metaverse. We’re still in the dinoverse unfortunately, and this is pretty bad for Canada business-wise,” the economist added. Canadians are demanding answers and measures to keep something similar from happening again.

Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri apologized for the outage once services started coming back online. “We let you down,” he said, promising automatic bill credits to all customers as recompense. On Saturday, Staffieri claimed in a statement that the breakdown was caused by “a network system failure following a maintenance update.”

In the wake of the outage, experts are calling for more diversity in Canada’s wireless and telecom industry. The more businesses and individuals that rely on a single network, the more people will be affected if that network goes down. Rogers has 11 million wireless subscribers across Canada.

On an individual basis, Canadians (who can) should ensure they don’t have the same provider for wireless, internet, and wireline.

Businesses relying on wireless networks should consider doing the same if they can afford to, added David Soberman, a marketing professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

“If cashless payment systems are based on one network, you may find that some companies basically contract with two different [wireless or internet] suppliers so that they have one option if the other fails,” he said.

According to University of Ottawa Law Professor, Michael Geist, he shared his critique of the Rogers situation after finally getting internet again:

The Rogers outage must be a wake-up for a government that has been asleep on digital policy, content to cite dubious claims about meeting wireless pricing targets, introducing a policy direction that signalled more of the same, and handing over broader digital policy to a Canadian Heritage department largely captured by a few culture lobbyist groups that view the Internet primarily as a threat. Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne may fashion himself as a great salesman for Canada, but even he can’t sell the state of Canadian communications competition. The blame for Friday’s outage may lie with Rogers, but the government and CRTC should be held accountable for a failure to respond.

Some Rogers customers are entering their third day without internet and mobile connectivity. Rogers said just moments again its network and systems are nearly fully operational.