Critics and members of the opposition are calling for an investigation into the July 8 Rogers outage, as the telecom service provider scrambles to restore internet and phone services to millions of affected Canadians.
The outage that occurred in the early morning of July 8 has caused problems connecting to 911 in Toronto and Winnipeg, as well as issues related to businesses, banking systems, government services, and even the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), a non-profit representing consumers’ interests in telecommunications among other services, said it has sent a letter to the CRTC demanding an inquiry into the nationwide internet outage.
“We do not believe that we are required to justify the seriousness of the disruption faced by consumers and citizens regarding the present outage, which is manifest,” PIAC said, adding that it’s “particularly egregious” in light of a previous outage in 2021 and other recent outages in northern Canada.
PIAC also requested the CRTC to issue a public notice within 30 days to examine whether other telecommunications service providers should be required to establish a baseline mechanism for emergency planning, refund requirements, notice, transparency, and other consumer protections as conditions to continue operating in Canada.
In a Twitter post on July 8, the CRTC said it was aware of the Rogers outage and monitoring the situation, adding that its phone lines were also affected.
On the morning of July 9, Rogers said in a statement that it has restored services to the “vast majority” of customers, while its technical teams continue to work on bringing the remaining customers back online.
Rogers, being one of the Big Three wireless providers in Canada, has been seeking regulatory approval from the Competition Bureau and government to purchase fellow telecom giant Shaw in a $26 billion merger deal. But the recent outage has added to concerns of those wanting more competition in the telecom sector.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner said in a statement on July 8 that the outage “underscores potential additional risks of Canada’s current approach” to telecommunications regulation, which she said is “highly regulated” by the federal government.
“Many in my community have expressed concerns over the years related to the high costs of cell phone and wireless services due to limited competition enforced by Canada’s current regulatory structure,” she said.
“When critical infrastructure is impacted, Canadians need answers. I am calling for an immediate explanation to Canadians with respect to the cause of the Rogers outage. I believe that an emergency parliamentary committee meeting may be beneficial to look into this matter and to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Garner’s remarks were backed by her parliamentary colleagues.
“Today’s outage reminds us that telecom giants don’t face enough competition and customers don’t have enough choice. Remove the gatekeepers,” Conservative MP and leadership contender Pierre Poilievre said in a tweet. “Allow more competition.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also called out Canada’s highly concentrated telecom industry.
“This Rogers outage highlights the dangers of our monopolized industry. Emergency services are inaccessible. Interac and Visa networks are down. These are the consequences of a Liberal [government] that is fixated on protecting the profits of telecoms giants,” he wrote.
The Rogers outage left several government agencies temporarily out of service.
Service Canada said on its Twitter account on July 8 that call centres and passport offices are unavailable. All those trying to call Employment and Social Development Canada also had to wait, as well as for services like employment insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, or Old Age Security.
Travellers coming into Canada were also affected by the outage, as the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said they “may not be able to complete their ArriveCAN submission.” All travellers are required to use the government’s mobile app to submit information about their COVID-19 vaccination status before entering the country.
In the meantime, travellers who cannot submit their information via ArriveCan are required to complete the Traveller Contact Information Form prior to their arrival, CBSA said in a Twitter post on July 8.
“Paper copies of a traveller’s proof of vaccination, as well as their government-issued documents, will be required,” it said.
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement he is aware of the outage and that he was in contact with the CEO of Rogers, as well as the CEOs of the two other major telecom services providers Bell and Telus.
“This unacceptable situation is why quality, diversity & reliability are key to our telecom network,” he wrote.