Canadian Internet Outage Has Repercussions

John Lister's picture

Canadian communications giant Rogers is to give extra credit to customers hit by a 15-hour Internet outage. But regulators want to know more about what caused the problem and how it can be prevented in the future.

The outage had a huge impact, partly because of the sheer size of Rogers' customer base. It has a reported 11 million customers in a country with a population of 38 million. To make things even worse, the outage also affected some critical infrastructure including emergency phone lines and bank machines.

That's prompted the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to order Rogers to respond to detailed questions and provide a comprehensive explanation. The commission said "Events of this magnitude paralyzing portions of our country's economy and jeopardizing the safety of Canadians are simply unacceptable." (Source:

Meanwhile the government minister for innovation, science and industry has demanded telecommunications firms to work together to share resources and allow "emergency roaming" to limit the disruption from any future outages.

Maintenance Update To Blame

Exactly how the outage occurred and why it lasted so long isn't yet certain, though Rogers says it followed "a maintenance update in our core network."

The company says it will automatically credit customers with an amount equivalent to five days of service on their relevant plan. That's up from the two days it initially offered. (Source:

The move further fuels the fire over competition concerns in the telecommunications market in Canada, where three companies dominate the market. In many locations customers have little or no choice about who provides their service.

That's partly because of geography, with Canada having many sparsely populated rural areas that means building broadband networks may bring less profitable returns than in busy urban areas.

Merger in Question

Analysts have already speculated that the outage may make regulators less likely to approve a merger between Rogers and Shaw, a smaller company that operates in Western Canada.

It's possible politicians may argue that companies such as Rogers are under a bigger burden to maintain service and avoid outages given customers can't always respond by switching to another provider. That in turn prompts debate about whether Internet access should be considered a vital service that needs special protection.

What's Your Opinion?

Were you hit by the outage? Are you surprised it affected key services such as emergency calls? Should Internet providers be more strongly regulated when they have little competition?

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rhcconsulting_14541's picture

I was affected as a Fido customer, but not as much as those that had no other options. I had both a landline (few of my friends do anymore) and Internet service via Telus.

I was still left without a mobile option while away from home and there were services unavailable to me even though I was connected with alternative Internet and phone services.

I feel that even a 5-day refund is unreasonable. I pay for a full month, not a daily rate. A free month would be more reasonable and cause Rogers to take this issue more seriously. These tech companies are extremely profitable and therefore need to be accountable.

Rogers isn't the only monopoly-minded telecom. I killed my Telus Mobility account a.s.a.p. after receiving a $65 bill for a single phone call my wife made into the U.S. -- never refunded, but got an "Easy Roam US - $7/day" plan provided for free when I complained (we only used our landline for U.S. calls after that).

It is disturbing to see how many services (including banking and government services) that were affected and didn't have an alternative emergency plan. See Michael Geist's podcast about this Rogers outage:

Canadian telecoms are protected from foreign competition and that should require them to provide a higher level of service and reliability. Given that competition is already severely limited, allowing companies to buy up their competition is not in the customer's interest.

Anyone that doesn't think teleoms are an essential service should consider how few people retain a landline these days and the near impossibility of receiving a paper bill. When's the last time you filled out a paper tax return?