Rogers Outage and ‘Big 3’ Dominance to Be Studied at Media and Internet Conference

Last month’s nationwide Rogers network outage and the oligopolistic nature of Canada’s telecom industry will be the focal points of an upcoming media and internet conference held by Ottawa’s Carleton University.

Rogers’ core network suffered a catastrophic failure on the morning of July 8, affecting more than 12 million Canadians and taking down everything from cellphone service and broadband internet to banking services like Interac and access to 9-1-1. It even impacted government helpdesks and medical systems.

The disruption cost the Canadian economy a reported $150 million in less than 24 hours. Carleton University Ph.D. candidate Ben Klass and his supervisor, communication researcher Dwayne Winseck, believe the incident has exposed the potential drawbacks of relying on a select few massive companies to provide vital services.

“We’ve placed a lot of trust in Bell, Rogers and Telus. The federal government has allowed them to become very large and enjoy privileges that accrue to large companies. But the outage reminds us that bigger is not always better.” said Klass.

What’s more, Klass and Winseck’s opinions are shared by many experts and critics across the country.

“To better understand the power and responsibilities of these corporations, and to help regulators safeguard citizens, policymakers need accurate, meaningful and timely information about media concentration.” Carleton University said in a news release.

“That’s the main goal of the Global Media & Internet Concentration Project (GMICP).”

The GMICP is a $2.5-million initiative that spans nearly 40 countries. It is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and led by Winseck. The GMICP will hold its inaugural conference at Ottawa’s Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre on August 18 and 19.

The project also aims to explore how the current landscape of Canada’s telecom space came to be, despite rotating governments’ claims of encouraging more wireless competition over the past three decades.

There is no doubt that it’ll be quite some time before Rogers wipes the egg that was last month’s network failure off its face. However, experts also see it as a wake-up call for the government — and the public — to think about diversity in fulfilling Canada’s telecommunications needs and just how important competition in this industry is for the quality, reliability, and cost of service.

Ottawa and regulators are already evaluating the outage. The Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) has demanded closer cooperation between the ‘Big 3’ to ensure that emergency services remain available even in the event of an outage, among other things.