Massive Rogers Outage Has Many Questioning Rogers Shaw Merger

A massive outage on major telecom provider, Rogers, has many questioning the Rogers Shaw merger.

In March of 2021, Rogers proposed to buy Shaw for an estimated $26 billion. Ever since, there has been quite a bit of push back against the idea. Canadian’s flooded the Competition Bureau asking the government to put a stop to the deal. Academics and experts all agree that the Rogers Shaw deal is a bad deal for Canadians. Despite the widespread outrage, the CRTC rubber-stamped the deal. While the situation looked bad, the Competition Bureau has had a recommendation to block the deal. The news of the deal more or less slipped off the radar shortly after.

Now, the deal is back in sharp focus thanks to a massive Rogers outage that started on Saturday. Millions of customers were without Internet, TV, and phone service of any kind. Disturbingly, the outage extended to access to 911 services, meaning if customers had an emergency, calling 911 would prove to be unusually difficult. While some might dismiss an Internet outage as a first world problem, the outage extended far beyond that. People were suddenly unable to use their debit and credit cards. Businesses were unable to complete transactions, meaning they were losing money. Venture notes that the outage even affected transit services:

In Vancouver, anyone who tops up their Compass Card using a debit card at a station is out of luck. Compass machines are currently only accepting cash. TransLink text service is also unavailable.

Edmonton Transit Service is also experiencing service issues. Real-time info is unavailable.

In Toronto, some GO Transit services are down, including the inability to purchase fares using debit and credit and E-tickets being unavailable.

The outage has even caused some problems at Toronto Pearson Airport, and is causing issues for the Calgary Stampede.

Rogers has issued an apology, saying that the outage has been narrowed to a service update. From CBC:

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

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

Staffieri apologized for the outage, adding that “we’re particularly troubled that some customers could not reach emergency services and we are addressing the issue as an urgent priority.”

Parts of the system have since been reportedly restored, but others are still experiencing disruption, going on three days without service:

After waiting hours on hold to speak with a Rogers representative, Rosanna Minicucci was still no closer to finding out when her landline, internet and TV service might be restored.

“I stayed five hours on hold, on the line. People are obviously calling — there are obviously a lot of people out there still with no service,” Minicucci, who lives in Vaughan, north of Toronto, said.

Her service was restored on Sunday night — more than 60 hours after it went out — but it remained glitchy, she said

Minicucci was one of a number of Rogers customers who told CBC News they were still struggling to use their phones, internet and other Rogers services more than two days after Friday’s nationwide outage caused major disruptions, including to 911 lines and banking services.

For a number of people, the outage has renewed calls to block the Rogers Shaw merger. Many believe that if things are this bad now, imagine how bad things will be if there is then only three major carriers across the country with Rogers buying Shaw. Indeed, the outage has highlighted the extent of how many parts of the country rely on a single carrier. One outage and large swaths of the economy shuts down. Probably what came as a surprise to many is how credit cards were also using Rogers to complete transactions in the first place. Some have called for backup systems to be put in place should an outage hit again. It’s actually a bit surprising that backup systems aren’t already in place to a degree.

Some may trivialize the lack of access to the Internet. The problem is, unlike the 90’s, essential services are accessed through the Internet. Whether it is paying bills, looking for work, or accessing government services, a lot more is done through the Internet these days. Again, this alone highlights how much society depends on carriers to carry on their daily lives these days. The Internet isn’t just trivial posts on social media platforms these days, after all.

At any rate, this story does have the potential to be big enough to shift the debate over the merger. Whether this outrage sustains long enough to the end and make sure that the deal is dead remains to be seen. Still, it has captured the attention of the entire nation for the time being.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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