Rogers Says an ‘Always On’ Network Will Cost $250 Million

Rogers plans to build a $250 million “always on” network as a precaution against future outages, company CEO Tony Staffieri told the House of Commons Industry and Technology committee on Monday (via Global News).

In the wake of the network outage earlier this month that left millions of Canadians without cellphone and internet service, Rogers has vowed to safeguard its network against such disruptions. The company has also said it plans to spend $10 billion over the next three years to make its network more reliable.

More immediately, Rogers will introduce redundancy to its back-end infrastructure by splitting up its wireline and wireless core networks.

“To be frank, this added layer of protection will be expensive. We estimate it will cost at least a quarter of a billion dollars, but we know it is the right thing to do,” Staffieri testified before the committee.

Rogers’s July 8 network outage crippled telephone and cellphone service, prevented subscribers from dialling 9-1-1, and even affected the INTERAC banking network. “On that day, we failed to deliver on our promise to be Canada’s most reliable network,” Staffieri said.

During the same hearing, the Rogers CEO insisted that Canadians have “alternatives and choice” and that the outage lasted “little less than a day.”

According to recently publicized documents, Rogers has told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) that a simple code error was responsible for the entire debacle. A bit of code pushed during a planned upgrade deleted a critical data filter, causing a cascade of issues that ultimately resulted in a network-wide outage.

CRTC chair Ian Scott was also in attendance at Monday’s committee hearing. The NDP’s Brian Masse asked Scott what penalties Rogers could potentially be looking at in the conclusion of the watchdog’s own investigation of the incident.

Scott said the CRTC could levy several monetary penalties on Rogers as part of its verdict, but added that such penalties are designed to ensure compliance with regulations and not as “punitive” actions. The regulator can also issue a variety of orders to operators.

Scott added that he has not reviewed the entirety of Rogers’ response to the CRTC’s probe yet, so it was premature to talk about its outcome.

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne has ordered Rogers, Bell, and Telus to create a network safety plan, which would include resource pooling and emergency roaming services for users, by September.

One MP also asked Staffieri if he or anyone else from Rogers’s board of directors would lose their job over the outage.

“I’m accountable to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” the Rogers CEO said. Rogers last week replaced its chief technology officer, Jorge Fernandes, with Ron McKenzie, former president of Rogers for Business.

The industry committee’s inquisition into the network breakdown isn’t over yet. Executives from Rogers will appear before the House of Commons for at least one more hearing before the end of the month.