December 9, 2022

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ARCHIVES » MASSIVE TELECOM OUTAGE IN CANADA SNARLS BANKING AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES

MASSIVE TELECOM OUTAGE IN CANADA SNARLS BANKING AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES

Banking, government, emergency services and more affected

Please refer to CBC News website here (new window) for further updates over the weekend

A massive outage at Rogers has brought down internet and cellular service across Canada, and has also interrupted government services and payment systems for businesses and individuals.

The outage began some time early Friday morning, and as of 5 p.m. ET had not been fixed.

The company does not have an estimate when the day-long outage will be fixed, said Kye Prigg, Rogers’ senior vice-president of access networks and operations, on CBC’s Power & Politics.

I wouldn’t like to say whether it’s going to be fully online today or not, but we are working very, very hard on making sure that we get everything running as soon as possible, he told host Catherine Cullen.

[But] we’re getting very close to understanding the root cause of the of the failure. And we’re taking actions along with our network vendors to recover the situation.

We don’t understand how the different levels of redundancy that we build across the network coast to coast have not have not worked, he added.

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The company has approximately nine million wireless customers and just shy of three million on the cable and internet side of the business.

Internet monitoring watchdog group Netblocks.org reports that total internet traffic in Canada was at 75 per cent (new window) of its normal level on Friday morning. 

Chart: Dexter McMillan
Chart: Dexter McMillanPHOTO:  CBC NEWS / CLOUDFLARE

See interactive chart on CBC News website (new window).

Wide variety of services impacted

Rogers-owned flanker brands like Fido and Chatr are also offline, but even services not directly controlled by Rogers, such as emergency services, travel and financial networks, are having problems.

Debit payment services have also been interrupted.

A nationwide telecommunications outage with a network provider … is impacting the availability of some Interac services, a spokesperson for Interac confirmed to CBC News.

Debit is currently unavailable online and at checkout. Interac e-transfer is also widely unavailable, impacting the ability to send and receive payments.

Bank machines and other financial networks across the country were down in places seemingly due to the issues at Rogers.
Bank machines and other financial networks across the country were down in places seemingly due to the issues at Rogers.PHOTO:  CBC / ANGELA MACIVOR

Bell confirmed that it is having no issues on its network, although it says customers are having difficulties connecting to anything on a Rogers network.

The Bell network is operational and calls and texts between Bell customers or to other providers are not impacted, the company said on Twitter (new window).

CBC’s radio station in Kitchener, Ont., has been taken offline and off the air (new window) as a result of the outage.

911 problems

The Toronto Police Service tweeted that Rogers customers in that city were having trouble connecting to 911, but stressed that the 911 service itself was working properly, as long as people weren’t calling from a Rogers-affiliated device.

We are working to resolve these issues, the force said.

Other emergency services reported a similar status.

Although Rogers is experiencing a nationwide outage, our tests have shown 911 is still working, a spokesperson for the Fredericton Police Service told CBC News.

Officials in Winnipeg and Vancouver also stressed that emergency services are operational, but people on the Rogers network can’t seem to access them.

Under Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) rules in place since 2017 (new window), telecom networks are supposed to ensure that cellphones are able to contact 911 even if they do not have service.

Canada’s telecom regulator did not immediately reply to a request from CBC News as to whether the 911 problems seen Friday are in breach of those rules. In a tweet, the CRTC said it also doesn’t have reliable phone service due to the Rogers outage.

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Outage ‘incomprehensible’ to Canadians

They aren’t the only ones. Ordinary Canadians told the CBC on Friday that the outage is unacceptable.

This can’t happen again without changes being made, Torontonian Andrew Revai told CBC News. People can tweet all the memes they want about losing connectivity but how will Rogers keep this from happening again?

WATCH | Here’s what regular Canadians told us about the outage:

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Ottawa resident Robert Hubscher said it’s incomprehensible that a company as big as Rogers could have an outage this widespread for this long.

He uses Rogers for his cellphone and home internet, and said in an interview Friday that he is glad he has some services with other companies to maintain connections right now.

It’s a little scary that the regulatory bodies are not looking at this more seriously, Hubscher said.

Government services including already bottlenecked passport offices, Service Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency are also affected.

The Canadian Border Services Agency says the ArriveCan app is disabled as a result of the outage, and as a result anyone arriving in Canada will have to have a paper copy of their vaccination status (new window).

People crowd around a Toronto Starbucks to use its free wifi on the Bell network Friday morning during a major outage of Rogers Communications' mobile and internet networks that was causing widespread disruptions across Canada.
People crowd around a Toronto Starbucks to use its free wifi on the Bell network Friday morning during a major outage of Rogers Communications’ mobile and internet networks that was causing widespread disruptions across Canada.PHOTO: (CHRIS HELGREN/REUTERS)

Rogers offered rebates after last outage

Telecom analyst Vince Valentini with TD Bank, who covers the company, says it’s not good for the company’s reputation to have an outage of this scale, especially since it seems to be across all of its services, from internet to wireless.

The longer this situation lasts, we believe there could be minor risks to customer churn, he said. And also there could be credibility issues for Rogers in the future as it attempts to ramp up sales.

It’s the second time in as many years that Rogers has been rocked by a major outage, as the company’s wireless and cable networks went down in a similar fashion in April 2021 (new window). At the time, Rogers blamed an issue with a software update at one of its telecom equipment suppliers.

That time, the company offered customers rebates for their services, which ended up working out to a few dollars per customer. If the same metric is applied this time, Valentini says the company could be on the hook for about $28 million in rebates.

Technology analyst Ritesh Kotak says he suspects the cause of the outage is an update gone wrong in one of Rogers’ internal systems.

Economic vulnerability

Regardless of why, Kotak says it underscores how vulnerable Canada’s economy is to outages like this, and says he makes sure all his telecom services come from different providers for this exact reason.

It shows just how reliant we are on this technology, he said in an interview. From some government services … to working from home, all that has literally been shut down.

Canadian telecom giant Rogers said it was working to restore services as quickly as possible Friday morning.
Canadian telecom giant Rogers said it was working to restore services as quickly as possible Friday morning.PHOTO:  CBC / PATRICK MORREL

Vass Bednar, executive director of of McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy in digital society program, says the outage underlines a long-simmering problem with Canada’s telecom network, which is that both the infrastructure and the services themselves are owned by private companies.

That’s not the case everywhere in the world, where private sector players control one or the other, and often compete with a public option.

The internet and cellular services … seem like a public good, she told CBC News in an interview Friday. They seem like critical digital infrastructure that we all need to use, and yet they are privately owned and operated.

Maybe it’s time for Canadians to seriously rethink that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pete Evans (new window) · CBC News · Senior Business Writer

Pete Evans is the senior business writer for CBCNews.ca. Prior to coming to the CBC, his work has appeared in the Globe & Mail, the Financial Post, the Toronto Star, and Canadian Business Magazine. Twitter: @p_evans Email: pete.evans@cbc.ca

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