Rogers CEO to Meet with Minister Today Over Last Week’s Massive Outage [Update]

Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has scheduled a meeting with Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri today to seek answers for the nationwide network outage that left millions of Canadian citizens and businesses without phone and internet access on Friday — reports BNN Bloomberg.

The pair will be joined by executives from other major telecom companies, and they will “discuss how important it is to improve the reliability of the networks across Canada.”

Rogers’s entire network went down early Friday morning, crippling wireline, wireless, and internet service across the country. The outage also affected everything from banking and payment systems like Interac to the ArriveCAN app. It even led to difficulty in reaching 9-1-1 and other emergency services.

Rogers said on Sunday that its network and systems are nearly fully operational, but many households and businesses are still without service. Minister Champagne has called the breakdown “unacceptable.”

“These services are vitally important for Canadians in their day-to-day life and we expect our telecom industry to meet the highest standards that Canadians rightly deserve,” he said in an emailed statement.

The entire situation may increase Champagne’s reluctance to approving Rogers’s planned $26 billion CAD acquisition of Shaw Communications, Canada’s fourth-largest telco. At the very least, it could increase how much scrutiny his office puts the deal through.

The Rogers-Shaw deal still requires approval from the Competition Bureau and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada. Both currently oppose the deal, saying it threatens to reduce wireless competition and raise prices.

Last month, the Competition Bureau even petitioned the federal Competition Tribunal to block the deal entirely. Rogers and Shaw held mediation talks with Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell last week, but the negotiations fell through.

Experts on telecom policy believe the outage will add another point of focus for campaigns and arguments opposing the merger. After all, unruly reliance on a single telecom provider was why the Friday outage was so devastating.

Financial analysts, meanwhile, said the nationwide breakdown increases the political and regulatory risk to Rogers-Shaw merger proceedings.

Michael Geist, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa and outspoken opponent of the takeover, said the event should be “a wake-up for a government that has been asleep on digital policy.” Geist himself lost internet access because of the outage.

Staffieri apologized for the service blackout on Saturday. “We let you down yesterday. You have my personal commitment that we can, and will, do better,” he said.

The Rogers CEO claimed the outage was caused by “a network system failure following a maintenance update.” Rogers has promised automatic bill credits to all customers as recompense for its failure.

Update July 11, 11:56am PDT: Champagne will hold a virtual media conference later today at 1:30 pm PDT, detailing the outcome of today’s meeting with CEOs from Rogers, Telus and Bell.

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