Canada’s industry minister said he was calling on Rogers and other telecom companies to come up with a plan to bolster the resilience of Canada’s cellular and internet networks after Friday’s massive blackout left millions of people out line and affected certain essential services.
On Monday, Francois-Philippe Champagne convened a meeting of telecom CEOs – including Rogers’ Tony Staffieri – to discuss ways to prevent similar service outages in the future.
“I wanted to make sure they clearly understood how unacceptable Canadians find the situation and that they need to take immediate initial steps to improve the resilience of our network in Canada,” he said.
Rogers has yet to fully explain what caused the outage. Staffieri released a statement on Saturday blaming a network system failure following a maintenance update. He did not provide further details.
Champagne said the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will open an investigation into the outage. In a statement released to CBC, the independent body did not confirm its intention to investigate.
Champagne said that in the meantime, he wants to see companies come up with a plan within 60 days to lessen the impact of future outages on consumers.
This plan, he said, should ensure that telecommunications companies provide mutual assistance during outages and that no customer is left without access to 911 service. Champagne said he is also asking companies to offer a “communications protocol” to keep Canadians informed during such outages.
Champagne said such a plan would only be a “first step”. When asked if any new regulations or rules aimed at protecting consumers were on the horizon, he did not elaborate.
The opposition calls for a commission of inquiry
Tory MP Gerard Deltell, the party’s spokesman for innovation, science and industry, said the Tories would be open to policy changes but would first like to know what caused the outage.
“Does that mean, you know, a whole new law to fix it? I’m not entirely sure, but we’re open to discussion about it,” Deltell said.
For now, the Tories are asking the parliamentary industry and technology committee to look into the outage.
“First and foremost, we need to understand why this happened,” Deltell said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party would support a parliamentary inquiry. He went further than his Conservative counterparts by calling on the government to pass new regulations and break up big telecommunications companies like Rogers to foster greater competition.
“There is no doubt that the federal government has the power to properly regulate the telecommunications sector in this country and should do so, just as we have standards regarding food quality, quality and safety guidelines,” said he declared.
Experts call for better consumer protection
A class action lawsuit was launched in Quebec on Monday alleging that Rogers violated provincial consumer protection laws.
The company said Friday it would “proactively credit all customers,” but did not provide further details.
But the language of Rogers’ customer contracts places strict limits on its liability, said Marina Pavlović, a University of Ottawa telecommunications lawyer.
“Their contract actually says they don’t guarantee uninterrupted service and there’s a long clause that’s about a page long that talks about their limitation of liability,” Pavlović said, adding that Rogers isn’t unique to this. regard.
Pavlović said new regulations and oversight would help protect consumers, but the CRTC could take some time to enact and enforce new rules.
Fenwick McKelvey, assistant professor of information and communications technology policy at Concordia University in Montreal, said Friday’s outage will put more pressure on the federal government to enact new regulations.
“There’s a big shift going on where we used to think of internet or mobile phone services as a luxury, and now I think they’re an essential good,” he said.