Rogers services are back online for most customers after a daylong outage at the telecom giant that left millions of Canadians without internet and cellular service, while also disrupting government services and payment systems.
Some individual users saw their internet connections and cellphones come back to life Friday evening, and an update sent to CBC’s IT department said the problem in Rogers’s “core network … looks to have recovered.”
In an update Saturday morning, posted to Twitter, Rogers said it has now restored services for the “vast majority of our customers” and that its technical teams are working hard to ensure that the remaining customers are back online as quickly as possible.
The Toronto-based company has offered no timeline for when service may be restored to all customers.
Tony Staffieri, chief executive and president of Rogers, said in an open letter that the company apologizes for the service interruption. He gave no explanation for the outage or how many customers were affected.
The outage began some time early Friday morning; throughout the day the company said little about its cause or when it might end.
“We don’t understand how the different levels of redundancy that we build across the network coast to coast have not worked,” said Kye Prigg, Rogers’ senior vice-president of access networks and operations, on CBC’s Power & Politics.
“We are working very, very hard on making sure that we get everything running as soon as possible,” he told host Catherine Cullen.
The company has approximately nine million wireless customers and just shy of three million on the cable and internet side of the business.
Responding to questions about compensation, Rogers said earlier that it would be “proactively crediting all customers” — but did not provide further details.
There is “no indication” the outage is due to a cyberattack, according to a statement from Canada’s electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment.
The U.S.-based cybersecurity firm Cloudflare agreed with that assessment, saying in a in a blog post that the outage was likely “an internal error.”
Whatever the reason, the impact has been dramatic. Internet monitoring watchdog group Netblocks.org reported that total internet traffic in Canada was at 75 per cent of its normal level on Friday morning.
Rogers-owned flanker brands like Fido and Chatr also went offline, as did services not directly controlled by Rogers, such as emergency services, travel and financial networks.
Debit payment services have also been interrupted.
“A nationwide telecommunications outage with a network provider … is impacting the availability of some Interac services,” a spokesperson for Interac confirmed to CBC News.
“Debit is currently unavailable online and at checkout. Interac e-transfer is also widely unavailable, impacting the ability to send and receive payments.”
Bell confirmed that it is having no issues on its network, although it says customers are having difficulties connecting to anything on a Rogers network.
“The Bell network is operational and calls and texts between Bell customers or to other providers are not impacted,” the company said on Twitter.
Telus networks were also working normally.
CBC’s radio station in Kitchener, Ont., went offline and off the air as a result of the outage.
Spoke to the CEO of Rogers. Shared with him the frustration of millions of Canadians.<br><br>Also spoke w/ the CEOs of both Bell and Telus. Everyone is in solution mode, willing to help.<br><br>This unacceptable situation is why quality, diversity & reliability are key to our telecom network
Emergency services across the country reported issues, in some cases at the dispatching centres themselves, but mostly just with an inability for Rogers customers to contact them.
Under Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) rules in place since 2017, telecom networks are supposed to ensure that cellphones are able to contact 911 even if they do not have service.
Canada’s telecom regulator did not immediately reply to a request from CBC News as to whether the 911 problems seen Friday are in breach of those rules. In a tweet, the CRTC said it also doesn’t have reliable phone service due to the Rogers outage.
They aren’t the only ones. Ordinary Canadians told CBC News on Friday that the outage is unacceptable.
“This can’t happen again without changes being made,” said Torontonian Andrew Revai. “People can tweet all the memes they want about losing connectivity but how will Rogers keep this from happening again?”
Ottawa resident Robert Hubscher said “it’s incomprehensible” that a company as big as Rogers could have an outage this widespread for this long.
He uses Rogers for his cellphone and home internet, and said he’s glad he has some services with other companies to maintain connections right now.
“It’s a little scary that the regulatory bodies are not looking at this more seriously,” Hubscher said.
Bad news for proposed Rogers takeover of Shaw
The outage comes as Rogers is trying to get approval to take over Calgary based telecom firm Shaw, in a deal that would give it even more control over Canada’s telecom landscape. The CRTC has already signed off on the merger, but numerous regulatory hurdles, including the Competition Bureau, who had concerns about the deal even before Friday.
Friday’s debacle is likely to become another major hurdle in getting that deal done.
Government services including already bottlenecked passport offices, Service Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency are also affected.
The Canada Border Services Agency says the ArriveCan app is disabled because of the outage, so anyone arriving in Canada must have a paper copy of their vaccination status.
Telecom analyst Vince Valentini with TD Bank, who covers Rogers, says it’s not good for the company’s reputation to have an outage of this scale, especially since it seems to be across all of its services, from internet to wireless.
“The longer this situation lasts, we believe there could be minor risks to customer churn,” he said. “And also there could be credibility issues for Rogers in the future as it attempts to ramp up sales.”
It’s the second time in as many years that Rogers has been rocked by a major outage, as the company’s wireless and cable networks went down in a similar fashion in April 2021. At the time, Rogers blamed an issue with a software update at one of its telecom equipment suppliers.
That time, the company offered customers rebates for their services, which ended up working out to a few dollars per customer. If the same metric is applied this time, Valentini says the company could be on the hook for about $28 million in rebates.
Technology analyst Ritesh Kotak says he suspects the cause of the outage is “an update gone wrong” in one of Rogers’ internal systems.
Regardless of why, Kotak says it underscores how vulnerable Canada’s economy is to outages like this, and says he makes sure all his telecom services come from different providers for this exact reason.
“It shows just how reliant we are on this technology,” he said in an interview. “From some government services … to working from home, all that has literally been shut down.”
Vass Bednar, executive director of of McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy in digital society program, says the outage underlines a long-simmering problem with Canada’s telecom network, which is that both the infrastructure and the services themselves are owned by private companies.
That’s not the case everywhere in the world, where private sector players control one or the other, and often compete with a public option.
“The internet and cellular services … seem like a public good,” she told CBC News. “They seem like critical digital infrastructure that we all need to use, and yet they are privately owned and operated.”
“Maybe it’s time for Canadians to seriously rethink that.”