Analysts say the Rogers outage shows the need for a Plan B when wireless Internet services fail

You didn’t have to be a Rogers customer to feel a sense of dread when you heard the news of widespread wireless and internet outages Friday morning. For millions of Canadians, the day was already off to a bad start.

A quick tap of a debit card wasn’t enough to knock off the caffeine at a Starbucks in Toronto, as the breach affected online payment systems across the country. Passengers in Vancouver were advised they would not be able to do so pay the transit fare with debit cards. Cafes and libraries that still offer Wi-Fi have been converted into temporary offices. Any convenience of working from home has become a nuisance for those using the services of the telecom giant.

This is the second major Rogers breach in about 14 months. The company admitted this 11 million wireless subscribers: “We let you down today.”

Canada’s economy and everyday life depend on our communications networks, and when they go down, as Rogers did on Friday, there is no universal Plan B to keep widely used and vital services online.

The consequences are serious.

At least a half a million merchants use Interac debit payments, which relies on the Rogers network. Government services, including the ArriveCan application, are affected. The Niagara Health Authority was forced to do so cancel radiation therapy appointments. Some cities have warned Rogers customers that they may have trouble contacting 9-1-1 in an emergency.

“We’ve become quite fragile because of the rapid pace of innovation and the rapid pace of introducing new techniques and new forms of technology,” said economist Dan Ciuriak, senior fellow at the Center for International Management and Innovation.

This should be a “wake-up call” not just for Rogers, but for Canada’s wireless infrastructure as a whole.

“We’re talking about moving into the Metaverse. Unfortunately, we’re still in the dino world, and that’s pretty bad for Canadian business.”

Loyalty to 1 company makes you vulnerable

In an email to some corporate customers, Rogers blamed the outage on the main network. There was no estimate for a full recovery, although some services were returning to normal on Thursday.

While Rogers had to elaborate on what led to such a significant failure, Ciuriak said Canada is “behind” other countries in the development of wireless network equipment, as well as in security.

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Tyler Chamberlain, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, is less critical of the country’s wireless infrastructure, noting that these types of service outages are more common in other countries.

Any system that “never fails” would be “really expensive” to build, he said.

London, Ont. Traders at the Covent Garden market told customers it was cash only on Friday due to the Rogers cut. Interac’s system for debit payments is based on Rogers; Businesses using Rogers internet will also have their loan payments cut. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Part of the problem is that, whether in our work or in our personal lives, we often rely on one company for all of our telecommunications services, something companies like Rogers, Bell and Shaw offer for slightly lower prices, said Chamberlain. .

“[That’s] “Maybe one of the things you want to … reconsider, because if you’re all together and the other one goes down, you’re really isolated,” he said, especially for those who work from home full-time. is an absolute choice in places.

David Soberman, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, added that businesses that rely on wireless networks may want to consider the same.

“If cashless payment systems are based on one network, you can see that some companies are basically contracting with two different companies [wireless or internet] suppliers to have an option if the other fails,” he said.

“But not all companies can afford all these backups.”

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Rogers customers were caught off guard Friday by a massive outage that affected both mobile and internet networks, causing widespread disruption to banks, businesses and some emergency services across Canada.

Who is to blame?

Soberman said the responsibility falls on a company like Rogers when their services fail.

“I think the real issue here is a problem with Rogers’ systems, and they’re obviously not handling it very well,” he said, noting that other major wireless and Internet providers in Canada have not experienced such major outages. As short as Rogers has been the last two years.

Critics of the federal government are calling for an investigation into the Rogers service disruption.

“Given the critical infrastructure affected and the CRTC itself affected, the reason for the Rogers outage should be explained immediately,” said Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner. said in a statement shared on Twittercalled for an urgent parliamentary committee meeting to “make sure this doesn’t happen again”.

MDP leader Jagmeet Singh It claimed the widespread disruption to businesses and services was the result of the Liberal government “protecting the revenues of the telecom giants”.

Ciuriak said the government has a responsibility to regulate, but stopped short of that.

“You wouldn’t expect a government bureaucrat to understand the software requirements to ensure systems are robust and sustainable,” he said.

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Ben Klass says the Rogers outage is another lesson in why Canada’s telecommunications rules need to be completely overhauled to ensure consumers and businesses can rely on them when they need it most.

A vital service that requires regulation?

Although the CRTC has announced Broadband is a basic telecommunications service, not a utility like water or electricity, which is run primarily by Crown corporations or quasi-Crown corporations, Chamberlain added.

But Soberman said the government may consider treating wireless and Internet services similarly to ensure there are limited disruptions to businesses and vital services like 911.

“[The] “The Internet provides an infrastructure as important as the electricity system, as important as water, certainly as important as the postal system,” he said.

According to him, other wireless or Internet companies may have a means to mitigate such a failure.

“You can make some kind of law or rule that will ensure that people are always served, even if one of the providers has a problem.”

The CRTC has rules on telecommunications networks that allow cell phone users to still call 911 without wireless service. In a statement to CBC News, the regulator said it asked Rogers to prioritize measures “to ensure that 911 calls from cellphones are completed.”

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Rogers outage does not appear to be a cyberattack: government official

“At this point, I think we can assure Canadians that this is not a cyber attack,” Rogers’ Parliamentary Secretary Greg Fergus said, citing a preliminary analysis by the Communications Security Authority that said there was a Canada-wide outage.

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