Millions of people were left without mobile and internet service due to a significant network outage from one of the biggest telecommunications companies in Canada. Numerous other vital services, including ATM transactions, 911 calls, and transportation services, were also adversely affected by the crash.
The Toronto-based company Rogers Communications Inc. did not provide an explanation for the blackout or a timeframe for when full service would be restored to its millions of customers.
The Friday morning outage, which lasted for more than 15 hours, affected customers across the nation’s internet and mobile service as well as debit transactions, first responders, court cases, flights, and even hospital procedures.
Rogers said in a statement on Friday that “our technical teams are working to restore our services alongside our global technology partners, and are making progress.” “We are aware of your reliance on our networks. We disappointed you today. We’re doing everything we can to put this right as soon as possible.
By Saturday morning, the telecoms behemoth had released another update, telling customers that “the vast majority” of services had resumed operation but still giving no explanation for what had caused the significant disruption.
In a statement, the business said that “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.” They also said that they would be “proactively crediting all customers.”
Once customers were able to access the website, they started posting their outrage over the widespread outage, highlighting the systematic issues that can occur when monopolies are permitted to take control of an important utility that enables services for a country’s fundamental operation.
Former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Gerald Butts tweeted, “When one company’s service outage takes down everything in a country from 911 calls to The Weeknd’s concert, that company has too much power.”
One of the Toronto rapper’s two sets was postponed as a result of the disruption, which also forced businesses that couldn’t process debit transactions to switch to analog or cash-only payment methods. Hospitals in southern Ontario reported that staff members were unable to alert patients about illness, and some were forced to reroute their oncology patients to other locations for emergency radiation.
“Millions of Canadians were unable to call 911 yesterday as a result of the Rogers outage. Hospitals were unable to dispatch staff. In order for families to say goodbye to their loved ones at the end of life, there was no way to call them. Do you all now understand why corporate monopolies are risky? Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care specialist at the southern Ontario’s Brampton Civic Hospital, tweeted.
Consumer advocates and detractors seized on the outrage that many customers vented online and demanded that the industry’s top regulatory body launch a formal investigation and stop the vertical integration of essential services into monopolies like the telecom sector.
The company, which has about 10 million wireless subscribers and 2.25 million retail internet users, has a “this unacceptable situation is why quality, diversity & reliability are key to our telecom network,” tweeted François-Philippe Champagne, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, tweeted: “This Rogers outage highlights the dangers of our monopolized industry. These are the consequences of a Liberal government that is fixated on protecting the profits of telecoms giants.”
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre quickly joined the chorus of those calling for a public investigation into the incident, noting in a letter to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) that they thought it was past due for a look into what caused this most recent outage.
In a letter to the CRTC, PIAC stated, “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.”
The regulator said it was in contact with the company but made no mention of whether an investigation would be opened. It noted that it too was feeling the effects of Friday’s disruption, tweeting Friday morning, “Please note that our phone lines are affected by the Rogers network outage.”
“We are aware of how crucial telecommunications services are to Canadians. The CRTC tweeted, “We have been in regular contact with Rogers, and all of their services, including emergency services, have been restored. We will keep an eye on this worrying situation and check in with Rogers.
Three large corporations, Rogers Communications Inc., Telus Corp., and BCE Inc., control the majority of the telecommunications services market in Canada. Because of their monopoly over 90% of the wireless market, the Big 3 have become known as such throughout the nation.
Customers in the North American nation pay more for cell phone services than almost anywhere else in the world, according to numerous foreign analyses of the Canadian telecom industry conducted in recent years.
According to a 2021 report from Rewheel, a Finnish telecom research firm, “Prices in the Canadian wireless market… continue to be the highest or among the highest in the world.” Rewheel compared mobile data rates across the globe. According to the company, there is a “de facto network duopoly” in Canada’s wireless network market.
One of the main contributors to the disproportionate financial burden that Canadian customers bear when it comes to their cell phone bills is the dominance of the Big 3, which has consistently forced the nation’s wireless network to rank as one of the least competitive in the world.
(For example, watching your favorite Netflix series for an hour using Canadian mobile data costs $12.55CAD in the North American nation, but only costs 43 centsCAD in Italy.)
But more importantly, as the weekend outage made clear, the lack of market diversity has produced a tenuously precarious system upon which daily operations can collapse with one, as of yet unexplained, blip.
“As a result of the widespread network outage caused by Rogers yesterday, sick staff members had no way to inform the hospital. Simply put, they did not appear. Patients endured excruciating pain. Also responding on Twitter was Birgit Umaigba, an ICU nurse employed by Toronto-area hospitals. Who else believes that Canada’s cellphone monopolies should be abolished?
The opposition from citizens and advocates also comes at a crucial time for the telecom giant as it is already under fire for its anti-competitive practices.
The company was wrapping up a two-day mediation with Shaw Communications Inc. that had been supervised by the Competition Bureau on Friday morning when the disruption occurred.
With only about 7 million broadband, wireless, cable, home phone, or satellite subscribers, Shaw is a smaller communications company whose customer base is dwarfed by the telecom titan. Rogers is pursuing Shaw as it seeks regulatory approval for a $26 billion takeover.