Rogers CEO apologizes for massive service outage, blames maintenance update

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The fallout from a massive network outage at Rogers Communications that disrupted mobile and internet services across much of Canada continued to be the focus on Saturday, even as the company restored most services and began to offer an explanation of what happened.

The widespread disruption, which began early Friday morning, crippled communications across a number of sectors, including health care, law enforcement and the financial sector. Many 911 services were unable to receive incoming calls, several hospitals reported impacts to their services, and debit transactions were halted when Interac went offline.

Small business owners were among the hardest hit by the outage, which left them unable to process debit card payments.

Sharif Ahmed, owner of the Plantforsoul outlet in west Toronto, said the outage left him helpless as he turned away customers who had no money.

“It pretty much shut down my business,” he said in an interview on Saturday. “Most people don’t use cash anymore, so I sat in my office doing nothing.”

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Major Rogers outage hits businesses and customers across Canada

Rogers customers were caught off guard by Friday’s massive outage involving both mobile networks and the internet, which also caused widespread disruption to banks, businesses and some emergency services across Canada.

Suddenly not being able to accept card payments is a “big deal,” he said. “We just can’t stop, we pay rent and everything.”

At nearby Caked Coffee, owner Supreet Arora said people had come thinking only their Wi-Fi and cellphones were affected – only to find the cafe had no Wi-Fi either.

“They entered [and] you want to help them, [but] there’s no Wi-Fi here,” he said in an interview on Saturday.

Arora said he always forgot to tell people he could only take money until he had prepared their food, so he served them anyway, noting that many people came back to pay on Saturday.

Late Saturday afternoon, Rogers Chairman and CEO Tony Staffieri said service had been restored and “the company’s networks and systems are nearly fully operational.”

Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri, pictured in Toronto in April 2013, apologized on Saturday for a lengthy network outage the day before that affected customers across the country. (Matthew Sherwood/The Canadian Press)

In a written statement, Staffieri said the company continues to monitor its network for issues and investigate the root cause of the outage.

“We now believe we have narrowed the cause to a network system failure following a maintenance update to our core network which caused some of our routers to malfunction early Friday morning,” he said. .

Staffieri apologized for the outage, adding that “we are particularly troubled that some customers were unable to reach emergency services and we are treating the issue as an urgent priority.”

“It could have been catastrophic”

Richard Leblanc, professor of governance, law and ethics at York University in Toronto, said the outage was a learning opportunity for threat actors, such as Russian state-sponsored hackers , who can now see how vulnerable Canadian industry, financial institutions and healthcare are. care systems are in for an attack on a telecommunications provider.

“It could have been catastrophic for the country if it was a threatening actor,” he said on Saturday.

Leblanc said the outage — Rogers’ second major outage in 15 months — makes it clear the federal government can’t just rely on telcos to do the right thing.

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Rogers service restored for most customers, but not everything is restored

The Rogers network outage that interrupted nationwide service is still affecting some customers. Telecom has yet to explain what caused the disruption.

“I think it’s time for regulators – and that includes Industry Canada, the CRTC and the Competition Tribunal – to start insisting on proper, robust, independently audited internal controls, so you don’t have a breakdown like this,” he said.

While Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne called the outage “unacceptable”, Leblanc said such talk needed to be followed by action.

“I think regulators have the authority, they have the power. The question is, do they have the courage to use it?” he said.

A sign in a store in Vancouver warns customers on Friday that credit and debit services are down. (Justine Boulin/Radio-Canada)

Patricia Valladao, spokesperson for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, said the telecommunications regulator is in contact with Rogers.

“At this time, our focus is on the outage and recovery. When it is over, we will take all necessary steps to review what happened and put in place the necessary measures to prevent it from happening again” , she wrote in an email. .

According to Netblocks, a UK-based organization that monitors cybersecurity, at its height the outage destroyed about 25% of observable internet connectivity in Canada.

People use their devices outside a Starbucks coffee shop in Toronto amid the nationwide Rogers outage on Friday. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

Rogers said it would proactively credit customers for the outage, but it didn’t provide details on how much. The company said it is aware of spam text messages claiming to offer the credit and that customers will automatically be credited.

Leblanc said he expects to see class action lawsuits — and lawsuits by individual companies — trying to quantify the cost of the outage.

“Lawyers are good at this, so if there’s a class action, they can measure lost productivity, opportunity cost of not being able to work, missed meetings, missed opportunities, missed contracts. It is significant,” he said. “If all these millions of people lose a day of their professional life, they will not be cured by a credit.”

Rogers did not respond Saturday to multiple requests for comment from The Canadian Press on the number of customers affected and the credit customers will receive.

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