Rogers Communications Inc. RCI-B-T says it will credit its customers with the equivalent of five days of service as it faces a litany of questions from Canada’s telecom regulator regarding a nationwide service outage that left millions without cellphone, home phone and internet service last Friday.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission sent the Toronto-based telecom dozens of detailed questions on Tuesday regarding the massive outage, which also affected the Interac debit system, 911 services and hospitals.
The regulator is giving Rogers until July 22 to provide information such as a timeline of the events that unfolded, the factors that contributed to the outage and prevented it from being contained, the number of customers affected in each province and the company’s internal process for making major network upgrades.
“Events of this magnitude, paralyzing portions of our country’s economy and jeopardizing the safety of Canadians, are simply unacceptable,” Ian Scott, chair and chief executive officer of the CRTC, said in a statement.
The service disruption highlighted Rogers’ prevalence in Canada just as the company is trying to persuade federal regulators its proposed $26-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. SJR-B-T won’t harm consumers by reducing competition.
The Commissioner of Competition is attempting to block the merger of the country’s largest cable networks, arguing that it would lead to higher prices and poorer service, particularly for wireless services.
A spokesperson for Rogers said in a statement that the telecom has been listening to its customers regarding how significantly the outage affected them and will provide the five-day credit as a “first step.”
“We will continue to work around the clock to restore Canadians’ confidence in us,” Chloé Luciani-Girouard said in an e-mail. The telecom did not specify how much it would cost to provide the customer credits.
In response to the CRTC’s inquiries, Ms. Luciani-Girouard said the company understands Canadians’ frustration and will “take every step necessary” to strengthen its networks and prevent the issue from happening again. “We are wholly committed to working alongside the government and regulators to improve network resilience for all Canadians.”
Rogers chief executive officer Tony Staffieri has said a coding error as part of a maintenance upgrade to the company’s core network early Friday morning caused the telecom’s routers to overload and the core gateway to shut down. The company is implementing changes to prevent a recurrence and has vowed to credit customers’ accounts.
The CRTC said it has received numerous complaints regarding the outage, as well as calls for a public inquiry, and is requesting detailed information from Rogers as an “initial step.”
In addition to seeking information about the causes and scope of last week’s service disruption, the regulator has also posed questions about the impact to emergency services and the Interac system, past outages dating back to Jan. 1, 2019, and the compensation Rogers is planning to offer its customers.
The regulator is also asking the telecom to describe any measures that were put in place after a software upgrade knocked out Rogers wireless service in April, 2021, and to explain why those measures failed to prevent the most recent service disruption.
“Individual Canadians also complained of being unable to work, loss of income, lack of access to banking and other essential services and lack of a comprehensive explanation from Rogers,” the CRTC wrote, noting that “few details” were provided on the company’s website or social-media accounts in the first several hours of the outage.
“Many businesses also felt significant economic impacts resulting from this outage,” the regulator added. Although Rogers said on Saturday that services had been restored and that its systems were “nearly fully operational,” many Rogers customers were still experiencing issues on Monday, the CRTC said in its letter.
The regulator said it is exercising its powers and performing its duties under the Telecommunications Act, and that the answers that Rogers provides will be placed on the public record, save for any confidential information.
“In light of the immense public interest in understanding what happened, commission staff expects Rogers to disclose information on the public record to the maximum extent possible,” the regulator said, while leaving the door open to a public inquiry.
Meanwhile, a House of Commons committee on industry and technology will convene on Friday afternoon to discuss a request to undertake a study of the Rogers outage. The committee comprises members of Parliament from the Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic parties and the Bloc Québécois.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a Liberal MP who sits on the committee, wrote in a letter to the committee’s chair that a “fair and comprehensive” study is required to ensure that “Canadians can get vital answers to the many timely questions raised as a result of these service outages.”
On Monday, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne directed wireless carriers to implement a framework that would require them to assist each other during network outages, provide customers with emergency roaming on their networks and follow a communications protocol to ensure consumers are not kept in the dark.
Mr. Champagne’s ministry is one of two regulatory bodies that is reviewing Rogers’s proposed merger with Shaw.
Mediation talks last week between Rogers and Shaw and the Competition Bureau failed to resolve the competition watchdog’s objections. The deadline for the deal to close is July 31.
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