Rogers national network outage disrupts internet, cellular, 911 and payment services

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The Rogers logo is pictured in Toronto on Monday September 30, 2019.

Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

A widespread network outage at Rogers Communications Inc. disrupted internet and cellular services across the country on Friday, shutting down payment systems and emergency services and creating havoc for businesses and individuals.

Rogers customers were unable to work from home or communicate with friends and family due to the service disruption, which knocked out the Interac debit system, forcing some businesses to switch to cash.

The outage underscores how dependent businesses and individuals have become on connectivity for commerce, transport and communications. This follows a nationwide wireless network outage that affected Rogers customers last year.

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The telecommunications and media giant is seeking regulatory approval for its $26 billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. before a July 31 deadline.

Walter Tufford, owner of a car detailing shop in Port Elgin, Ont., said the outage made his business “almost unmanageable” as it shut down his credit and debit machine as well as company phone line. “I have to drive home to send any type of message to my customers,” said Tufford, who uses another telecom provider at home.

Anil Bissa, owner of Sport Clips Haircuts salon in Orillia, Ont., said he’s been forced to send staff home because his customers mostly pay by debit and credit. “As things stand, we are struggling to stay afloat due to the rising costs of everything,” Mr Bissa said. “Losing a day hurts us a lot.”

Travelers also faced challenges, such as not having access to GPS for navigation or not being able to pay for gas.

Kevin Martin, who flew from Toronto to Ottawa on Thursday night for a wedding, was awaiting news from Air Canada regarding the status of his lost luggage. But without stable internet at his hotel, which relies on Rogers for service, he was unable to monitor the link provided to him and had difficulty renting a car. “Overall, what was supposed to be a relaxing weekend started off as stressful as it could get,” Mr Martin said.

Rogers took to Twitter to apologize to its customers and said “its technical teams are working hard to restore services as quickly as possible.”

“We will continue to update you as we have more information to share, including when we expect service to be restored,” the company said. Rogers did not disclose Friday afternoon the cause of the outage or the number of customers affected.

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Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, whose department is examining Rogers’ disputed takeover of Shaw, said the government was in contact with the Toronto-based telecommunications company.

“We have expressed how important it is that this matter be resolved as soon as possible and that the company provide prompt and clear communication directly to those affected,” Champagne said in a statement, adding that the government “will use all the tools at his disposal. our disposal to ensure that Canadians stay connected and that the company meets the high standards that Canadians deserve.

Canada’s competition commissioner is trying to block the merger of the country’s two largest cable networks, arguing that the deal will lead to higher prices and lower quality service, especially for mobile phone customers. Mediation talks between Rogers, Shaw and the Competition Bureau on Monday and Tuesday failed to resolve the competition watchdog’s objections.

The takeover also requires approval from the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Kaan Yigit, president of Toronto-based consumer research consultancy Solutions Research Group, called the timing of the outage “very unfortunate”.

“It reminds everyone – including those who have to make decisions that will affect Rogers very soon – how essential this infrastructure is and how concentrating more of it under one banner would also seem to increase the proportion of the population affected in the event. of disturbance. Mr. Yigit said in an email.

“Given that something like this affects us in ways that are more than just an inconvenience (i.e., 911 and such), it also makes me think about whether it should be more third-party monitoring to ensure multiple redundancies in place for these networks,” Yigit added.

The network outage disrupted Interac debit services online and at checkouts, as well as electronic transfer services, Interac said in a statement.

Interac’s e-Transfer feature has become a popular way to transfer money. In the 12 months to April of this year, Interac exceeded one billion wire transfers in Canada, an average of more than 2.7 million per day. That year, Canadians transferred $338 billion through the service, and an Interac poll found that 88% of Canadians said they had used electronic transfers.

The outage also disrupted emergency services across the country, with several police departments saying on Twitter that some customers were having trouble reaching 911. Ottawa police advised Rogers customers to try to call from a landline or mobile phone with another provider.

Last April, Rogers experienced a nationwide wireless network outage that lasted 16 hours as Canada grappled with a severe third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company said at the time that the problem stemmed from a software update from its supplier Ericsson, which caused the devices to disconnect from the network, and pledged to conduct a thorough investigation to prevent similar problems. do not reproduce.

The Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC), an Ottawa-based consumer advocacy group, has called on Canada’s telecommunications regulator to open an investigation into Friday’s 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 manifest and particularly egregious in light of a previously reported outage by Rogers in 2021,” PIAC chief executive John Lawford wrote in a letter to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The CRTC said on Twitter on Friday that its phone lines were affected by the outage.

At the end of March, Rogers had 8.91 million postpaid wireless subscribers and 1.15 million prepaid subscribers and 2.25 million retail Internet customers. (Postpaid subscribers are those who are billed at the end of the month for the services they have used, as opposed to prepaid customers, who pay up front for wireless services.)

Representatives from Bell Canada and Telus Corp. from BCE Inc. said their networks were working fine, but connections to and from Rogers’ network were down. “Some customers may experience issues when calling or texting Rogers customers,” Telus said in a statement.

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