Major telecoms agree to emergency outage deal: Minister Champagne

The deal comes after a massive Rogers service disruption in July that affected millions of Canadians

Vancouver

Canada’s major telecom companies have reached a formal agreement to “ensure and guarantee” emergency roaming and other mutual assistance in the case of a major outage.

“Going forward, should one of these providers be faced with a major network outage, the other companies have committed to provide the support and assistance necessary so that Canadians can reach loved ones, access 911, and conduct business transactions,” François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said to reporters during a cabinet retreat In Vancouver Tuesday.

“As part of this agreement, the companies also commit to providing clear and timely communications to keep Canadians and appropriate authorities informed about response and restoration during major network outages.”

The deal comes after a massive Rogers Communications Inc. service disruption on July 8 that affected millions of Canadians.

In the days after the outage, Champagne directed the CEOs of Rogers and other telecom companies to develop a backup plan to prevent a similar scenario, giving them 60 days to do so.

Rogers was unable to transfer customers to competing carriers during the unprecedented service outage, despite offers of assistance from Bell and Telus.

It was also unable to shut down its radio access network, which would have automatically connected customers to another carrier for 911 calls.

And in a letter requested by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in August, Rogers said it does not have the necessary data to determine the exact economic losses caused by the outage.

Many businesses were impacted due to the disruption.

Champagne noted that the agreement is only a first step in his network resiliency agenda, which involves strengthening accountability and preparedness.

He also said additional steps were being taken, including directing the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (CSTAC) to come up with further measures within six months to ensure robust and reliable telecom networks across the country.

“We’re not going to rest. Trust me. We’re going to hold them accountable and take any measures we can to strengthen resiliency,” he said to reporters.

Champagne also reiterated that the outage will be on the back of his mind as he considers and reviews Rogers’ $26-billion proposed takeover of Shaw Communications Inc.

When asked if he would use his powers to step in as Rogers navigates the Competition Bureau’s concerns about the deal and to prevent the whole process from dragging on, he indicated he would not.

“My job is to protect the interest of Canadians and when it’s my turn, certainly, we’ll make that clear,” he said to reporters.

One telecom industry analyst recently predicted the process going in to mid-2023.

Banner image: People use electronics outside a coffee shop in Toronto amid a nationwide Rogers outage, affecting many of the telecommunication company’s services, Friday, July 8, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2022.

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