On July 8, a Rogers Communications network outage wreaked havoc on Canada's economy. The days-long impact to cellular service and internet access prevented retailers from processing debit cards, blocked WiFi access, halted some government, banking, and emergency services from being offered, and even kept cell-phone users from being able to dial 911.
The nationwide blackout highlighted a few things. First, it showcased the almost monopolistic hold Rogers has on Canada's telecommunications system.
While it's not the only service provider in Canada, Rogers is the biggest, with more than 10 million customers. Telus and Bell are the other big two providers. Together the three giants account for nearly all of Canada's telecommunications service. When the biggest of those three carriers experiences an outage like this, it highlights the lack of competition within the sector.
Secondly, the outage put on full display our society's overwhelming reliance on technology. Suddenly, millions of Canadians were disconnected from the world (something many cynics would argue was a blessing in disguise, given the state of the world these days) as they could not respond to emails, e-transfer money, access apps, or even send text messages.
Needed to call a loved one? Hope you could find a pay phone. Needed to pay for your bagel at Tim Hortons? Hope you had some cash on hand. And if not, hopefully you could find an ATM that was working.
After the outage, Rogers stated it would be crediting affected customers with five days of service. The company blamed the malfunction on a network system failure that occurred during a core network maintenance update that affected its routers.
Since then, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission – the regulator for Canada's telecommunications industry – has ordered the telecom giant to produce a report on what led to the outage, with a deadline of July 22.
Hopefully that report will produce some answers, because 10 million Canadians (arguable more) deserve some accountability.