A massive network outage at one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies deprived millions of people of mobile and internet services, while countless essential services – such as ATM transactions, phone calls 911 and transportation services – were also affected by the accident.
Rogers Communications Inc, a Toronto-based company, offered no explanation for the outage, nor provided a timeline for when full service would be restored for its millions of customers.
The outage, which began early Friday, lasted more than 15 hours as debit transactions, first responders, court, airline and even hospital procedures were stalled, along with the general Internet and mobile access for customers across the country.
“Our technical teams are working to restore our services alongside our global technology partners and are making progress,” Rogers said in a statement Friday. “We know how much you rely on our networks. Today we let you down. We are working to remedy this as soon as possible. »
On Saturday morning, the telecommunications giant had issued another update, telling customers that a “vast majority” of services had come back online, without always providing an answer as to what caused the major disruption.
“Following our previous updates, we have now restored services for the vast majority of our customers and our technical teams are working hard to ensure that the remaining customers are back online as quickly as possible,” said the company in a statement, adding that they would “proactively credit all customers”.
Online, once customers were able to get there, people began to share their outrage at the nationwide outage, pointing to the systematic problems that can arise when monopolies are allowed to support a essential public service that enables services for the basic functioning of a country.
“When a company’s service outage knocks out everything in a country, from 911 calls to The Weeknd’s concert, that company has too much power,” tweeted Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
As well as postponing one of the Toronto rapper’s two sets, the disruption has also forced businesses unable to process debit transactions to switch to analog or cash-only, while hospitals across southern Ontario reported that staff were unable to alert when unwell, while others were forced to redirect their oncology patients to other facilities for emergency radiation therapy.
“Due to the Rogers outage, millions of Canadians were unable to call 911 yesterday. Hospitals could not call on staff. There was no way to call families so they could say goodbye to their dying loved ones. Now… do you all see why corporate monopolies are dangerous? tweeted Dr. Amit Arya, palliative care physician at Brampton Civic Hospital in southern Ontario.
The rage that many customers have expressed online has been echoed by consumer advocates and critics, who have called for both a formal investigation by the industry’s chief regulatory agency and for the essential services cease to be vertically integrated into monopolies like the telecommunications industry.
“This unacceptable situation is why quality, diversity and reliability are essential for our telecommunications network”, tweeted François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. about the company, which has approximately 10 million wireless subscribers and 2.25 million retail Internet. users.
“This Rogers outage highlights the dangers of our monopolized industry,” New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted, while delivering a blow to Mr. Trudeau’s ruling Liberal party: “These are the consequences of a Liberal government that is obsessed with protecting the profits of telecom giants.
The momentum to call for a public inquiry into the incident was quickly picked up by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which wrote in a letter to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) that it believed that it was high time to investigate the cause of this most recent outage.
“We do not believe we are required to justify the severity of the disruption facing consumers and citizens regarding the current outage, which is evident,” PIAC said in a letter to the CRTC.
The regulator, who noted he was also feeling the effects of Friday’s disruption — “Please note our phone lines are affected by the Rogers network outage,” the agency tweeted Friday morning — said he was in contact with the company, but did not say whether an investigation would be launched.
“We recognize the importance of telecommunications services to Canadians. We have been in regular contact with Rogers, their services have been restored including emergency services,” the CRTC tweeted. “We continue to monitor this concerning situation and will follow up with Rogers.”
In Canada, telecommunications services are dominated by three large companies, Rogers Communications Inc, Telus Corp and BCE Inc, with the monopoly controlling 90% of the wireless market colloquially referred to domestically as the “Big 3”.
Several foreign analyzes of the Canadian telecommunications industry conducted over the past few years have demonstrated time and time again that customers in the North American country pay more for cell phone services than almost anywhere else in the world.
“Prices in the Canadian wireless market…continue to be the highest or among the highest in the world,” reads a 2021 report by Rewheel, a Finnish telecommunications research company, which conducted a international comparison of mobile data speeds. The Canadian wireless networking market is a “de facto networking duopoly,” the firm concluded.
The dominance of the Big 3, which has consistently forced the country’s wireless network to rank among the least competitive in the world, is a major contributing factor to the disproportionate monetary burden that Canadian customers face when it comes to their phone bills. cellular.
(An hour of your favorite Netflix binge, for example, using Canadian mobile data will cost CAD $12.55 in the North American country, while in Italy the same program will only cost you CAD 43 cents) .
But more importantly, as was highlighted during the weekend outage, the lack of diversity in the marketplace has created a tenuous and precarious system upon which day-to-day functions can crumble with an as yet unexplained problem.
“Yesterday sick staff had no way of notifying the hospital thanks to the massive outage of the @Rogers network. They just didn’t show up. The patients suffered enormously. So did the few staff who were there,” tweeted Birgit Umaigba, an intensive care nurse working at Toronto hospitals. “Who else thinks it’s time to end cell phone monopolies in Canada?”
The pushback from the general public and advocates also comes at a pivotal time for the telecom giant as it already faces pressure over its anti-competitive dealings.
In the early hours of the disruption Friday, the company was in the process of concluding a two-day mediation with Shaw Communications Inc, overseen by the Competition Bureau.
Shaw, a small communications company whose customer base is dwarfed by the telecommunications titan with approximately 7 million broadband, wireless, cable, home phone or satellite subscribers, is being sued by Rogers, which is trying currently seeking regulatory approval with a $26-billion takeover.