Rogers’ network outage hit millions of Canadians, sparking outrage

A general view of the Rogers Building, Rogers Communications headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 22, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

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  • Rogers dominates the Canadian telecom sector
  • Banking services are disrupted, transportation is disrupted
  • The outage renews criticism of competition in the telecommunications sector

TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) – A major network outage at one of Canada’s largest telecom operators shut down banks, transport and government income for millions on Friday, angering customers and adding to criticism over Rogers Communications. (RCIb.TO) Industry dominance.

Almost every aspect of life is disrupted. Canadians who usually work from home crowd cafes and public libraries that still provide internet access and hover outside hotels to pick up a signal. The Canada Border Services Agency said its mobile app for incoming travelers has been affected. Cashless payment systems for retailers declined, while banks reported problems with ATM services.

The outage, which began around 4:30 a.m. ET (0830 GMT), was Rogers’ second in 15 months. The NetBlocks monitoring group said that a quarter of observable internet connectivity in Canada has been shut down. Rogers did not specify a reason.

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“Today we let you down. We are working to correct this as quickly as possible,” Rogers said in a statement. “Our technical teams are working to restore our services along with our global technology partners, and are making progress.”

Rogers did not say when the service might be restored. Shares of the company closed down 73 cents at $61.54 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday.

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With about 10 million wireless subscribers and 2.25 million retail Internet subscribers, Rogers is the number one provider in Ontario. Together with BCE Inc (BCE.TO) and Telus Corp (T.TO)Rogers controls 90% of the market share in Canada.

Downdetector, which tracks outages by compiling status reports from a number of sources, showed reports of outages beginning at 4:30 a.m. ET, and topped more than 20,000 users by 7 a.m. ET (1100 GMT). Reports dropped to about 7,700 by 2:30 PM ET (1830 GMT).

Downdetector said BCE’s Bell Canada services also ran into problems on Friday afternoon.

Canadian financial institutions and banks including the Toronto Dominion Bank (TD.TO) The Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) She said the power outage disrupted her services. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) It said ATMs and online banking were affected.

The disruption also made transportation and flight bookings more difficult at the height of the summer travel season.

A spokesperson for Vancouver International Airport, which is among Canada’s busiest, said travelers cannot pay for parking, use ATM terminals or purchase items from airport retailers due to the loss of internet access.

Canadian Air (AC.TO) She did not say how her call center was affected, but said she is working urgently to resolve the issue. Airlines in Canada, such as those in Europe and the United States, have faced a large number of calls due to flight cancellations and delays due to a pandemic staff shortage. Read more

Competition

Critics said the outage demonstrated the need for more competition in the telecoms sector.

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Earlier this year, the Canadian Competition Bureau blocked Rogers’ bid to take over rival Shaw Communications (SJRb.TO) in a C$20 billion deal, saying it would hinder competition in a country where telecom prices are among the highest in the world. The merger is still before a court awaiting the final verdict. Read more

Anthony Lacavera, managing director of Globealive, an investment firm that has bid for the wireless provider involved in the Rogers/Shaw deal, said.

In April 2021, Rogers customers reported outages to voice and wireless data services for several hours before the company could restore operations.

Rogers blamed his April outage on a glitch linked to an Ericsson software upgrade. A spokesperson for Ericsson, which provides cloud technology to Rogers’ 5G network, declined to comment on Friday and referred all questions to Rogers.

Some government agencies have had to cancel services after losing internet access, including the Canadian passport offices and the Communications Regulatory Authority. The Canada Revenue Agency, the country’s tax collection body, has lost phone service.

Canadian Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said his team is in contact with the company.

“We have expressed how important it is to resolve this matter as quickly as possible and for the company to provide quick and clear communications directly to those affected,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Cash will be king’

Police across Canada said the outage has resulted in some callers having difficulty reaching emergency services via 911 calls, including in Ottawa and Toronto, its largest cities.

Shops and restaurants in the downtown Toronto area put “cash only” signs on their doors. Residents crowded in and around a nearby Starbucks that offers free Wi-Fi on an unaffected network.

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“A lot of people here with their laptops are just working as hard as they do at home, because they have no service in the house,” said agent Ken Rosenstein.

In the heart of downtown Ottawa on Friday, cafes including Tim Hortons were not accepting debit and credit cards, turning away customers without cash. Tim Hortons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Cash will certainly be king in many stores today,” said Michelle Waseline, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Retail Council, who said outages will vary from retailer to retailer.

And while the unrest spread widely, several companies and transfer points said their services were not affected. The port of Montreal has not reported any disturbances. The Calgary Airport Authority said there were “no significant operational implications”.

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Additional reporting by Yuvraj Malik, Eva Matthews, Chobham Kalia and Maria Bonizath in Bengaluru; Katherine Jackson from Washington. Divya Rajagopal and Chris Hellgren from Toronto; Ismael Shakeel in Ottawa; Written by Rami Ayoub. Editing by Shinjini Ganguly and Jonathan Otis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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