Rogers outage shows need for Plan B when wireless and internet services fail, analysts say

You didn’t have to be a Rogers customer to feel a sense of dread when you woke up to the news of a widespread wireless and internet outage on Friday morning. The day for millions of Canadians was already off to a bad start.

At a Starbucks in Toronto, there was no quick squeeze of a debit card to get your caffeine fix on the run, as the disruption affected online payment systems across the country. Vancouver commuters have been advised that they may not be able to pay public transport costs with debit cards. Cafes and libraries still offering Wi-Fi have become makeshift offices. Any convenience to work from home has become an inconvenience for those who relied on the services of the telecommunications giant.

This is Rogers’ second major outage in about 14 months. The company recognized its 11 million wireless subscribers“Today we let you down. »

The Canadian economy and daily life are tied to our communications networks, and when they go down, as Rogers did for much of Friday, there is no universal plan B. to keep widely used – and vital – services online.

The repercussions are serious.

At least one half a million merchants use Interac debit payments, which depend on the Rogers network. Government services, including the ArriveCan app, were affected. The Niagara Health Authority had to cancel radiotherapy appointment. Some cities have warned Rogers customers that they may have difficulty contacting 9-1-1 in an emergency.

“We have become remarkably fragile due to the rapid pace of innovation and the rapid pace of implementation of new techniques and new forms of technology,” said economist Dan Ciuriak, senior fellow at the Center for International Governance. and innovation.

This should be a “wake-up call,” he said, not just for Rogers, but for Canada’s entire wireless communications infrastructure.

“We’re talking about entering the metaverse. Unfortunately, we’re still in the reverse, and that’s pretty bad for Canada commercially. »

Loyalty to 1 company makes you vulnerable

In an email to some corporate customers, Rogers blamed the disruption on an outage in its core network. There were no estimates for a full restoration, although some services appeared to return to normal Friday evening.

While Rogers will have to explain in more detail what led to such a major failure, Ciuriak said Canada has “lag” in its development of wireless network hardware compared to other countries, as well as in of security.

WATCH Should the government diversify the Canadian telecommunications market?:

Should the government diversify the Canadian telecommunications market?

Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne explains what he heard from Rogers about its outage and whether Canada should diversify its telecommunications market.

Tyler Chamberlain, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, isn’t as critical of the country’s wireless communications infrastructure, noting that these types of service outages are more common in other countries.

He said it would be “really expensive” to build a system that “never fails”.

Rogers outage shows need for Plan B when wireless and
Traders at Covent Garden Market in London, Ont., told customers there was only cash on Friday due to the Rogers outage. The Interac system for debit payments is based on Rogers; credit payments would also be halted at businesses using Rogers Internet. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Part of the problem is that, whether in our professional or personal lives, we often rely on a single company for all of our telecommunications services, Chamberlain said, which companies like Rogers, Bell and Shaw offer as an incentive for slightly lower prices. .

” [That’s] one of the things you might want to… reconsider because if you’re all-in-one and that one breaks down, you’re really isolated,” he said, especially for those who work at full time home. However, he admitted that is not necessarily an option in rural parts of the country.

Businesses that rely on wireless networks may want to consider the same, added David Soberman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

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

“But not every business can afford all of these backups. »

WATCH | How Canadians told us the Rogers outage affected them:

Rogers outage shows need for Plan B when wireless

Major Rogers outage hits businesses and customers across Canada

Rogers customers were caught off guard by Friday’s massive outage involving both mobile networks and the internet, which also caused widespread disruption to banks, businesses and some emergency services across Canada.

Who is to blame?

The blame lies with a company like Rogers when its services fail, Soberman said.

“I think the real problem here is that Rogers has a problem in their systems and they obviously don’t handle it very well,” he said, noting that other major wireless and internet service providers in Canada have not seen such major disruptions in such a short time as Rogers has in the past two years.

Critics of the federal government are demanding an investigation into the interruption of service from Rogers.

“Given the critical infrastructure that is affected and the fact that the CRTC itself is affected, the cause of Rogers’ outage should be immediately explained,” said Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner. said in a statement shared on Twittercalling for an emergency meeting of a parliamentary committee to “ensure that this does not happen again”.

leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh claimed that the widespread disruption to businesses and services is a consequence of the Liberal government “protecting the profits of telecom giants.”

Ciuriak said the government has a regulatory responsibility, but it stops there.

“You wouldn’t expect a government bureaucrat to understand software requirements to ensure systems are robust and resilient,” he said.

WATCH | The regulations need to be revised, according to an expert:

1657345986 637 Rogers outage shows need for Plan B when wireless

Telecom Expert Says Canada’s System Needs Overhaul

Ben Klass says the Rogers outage is another lesson in why Canadian telecom regulations need to be completely changed to ensure consumers and businesses can count on them when they need them most.

A vital service to be regulated?

Although the CRTC has declared Broadband internet is a basic telecommunications service, it is not a utility like water or electricity, which are mostly run by state-owned or quasi-state-owned companies, added Chamberlain.

But Soberman said the government could consider treating wireless and internet services the same to ensure limited disruption to business and life-saving services like 911.

” [The] The internet provides infrastructure that is as important as the electrical system, is as important as water, is certainly as important as the postal system,” he said.

There might be a way for other wireless or internet companies to step in to mitigate a disruption like this, he suggested.

“You might be able to make some sort of law or regulation that would ensure that the service is provided to people all the time, even if one of the providers has a problem. »

The CRTC has rules regarding telecommunications networks ensuring that cell phone users can still contact 911 even without wireless service. But the regulator did not immediately respond to CBC’s question about whether that rule had been broken following the Rogers outage.

WATCH | The 911 service is supposed to be protected, according to a government official:

1657345986 988 Rogers outage shows need for Plan B when wireless

Rogers outage does not appear to be a cyberattack: government official

“At this point, I think we can reassure Canadians that this is not a cyberattack,” Parliamentary Secretary Greg Fergus said of Rogers’ cross-Canada outage, citing early analysis of the Communications Security Establishment.

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