Rogers Outage Prompts Meeting Between Industry Minister and Telecoms Execs

Rogers Outage Prompts Meeting Between Industry Minister and Telecoms Execs
A man stands outside a locked Rogers wireless store in Toronto amid a country wide outage of the telecommunication company's services, on July 8, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Cole Burston)
The Canadian Press

Canada’s industry minister is set to meet with the head of Rogers Communications and other major telecom companies on Monday afternoon in the wake of last week’s massive outage that paralyzed the company’s network.

The office of François-Philippe Champagne said he planned to meet with Tony Staffieri and other telecom leaders to discuss the importance of improving Canada’s networks.

The widespread Rogers service outage began on Friday morning and lasted at least 15 hours, knocking out access to many health-care, law enforcement and banking services.

The statement from Champagne’s office said the minister found the disruption “unacceptable,” describing the services as “vitally important” in the daily lives of Canadians.

Staffieri has attributed the outage to a network system failure after a maintenance update, adding that the “vast majority” of customers were back online.

But some customers reported service disruptions stretching into Sunday, and Rogers issued a statement acknowledging some were still experiencing service disruptions it described as intermittent.

In a statement, Conservative industry critic Gérard Deltell said Canadians should get an explanation of what happened as well as what steps are being taken to ensure the outage doesn’t occur again.

“Rogers and officials from the government need to publicly answer these questions,” said Deltell.

The NDP is calling for the Liberals and CRTC to launch a formal investigation into the Rogers outage.

“Minister Champagne meeting with Rogers as a top priority shows that the Liberals are fixated on protecting the profits of telecom giants instead of helping Canadians,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a statement.

“We will be looking at bringing Rogers, Interac and Minister Champagne to committee to figure out what happened, and to make sure this never happens again.”

Keldon Bester, a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the co-founder of the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project, said Friday’s outage highlights the need for more competition in Canadian telecommunications.

“It would be incorrect to say a lack of competition caused the blackout,” said Bester. “But a number of elements of our telecommunications regulation as well as the competition system increase the scope of the alarm when it occurs.”

Although increasing competition is the most critical avenue of action in Bester’s view, he said there are other policies that can help mitigate the impact of outages, including allowing emergency roaming and addressing condominium exclusivity requirements. Emergency roaming would give customers the ability to switch to another carrier during an outage.

A Rogers spokesperson said in a statement ahead of Monday’s meeting that the company and other industry peers will meet with Champagne “to discuss increasing Canada’s telecommunications network resiliency.”

“We are supportive of initiatives that further strengthen Canada’s critical telecommunication infrastructure.”

By Nojoud Al Mallees