Failure at Rogers: “The negligence is on the side of the company”, defends the minister

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Failure at Rogers: “Negligence is on the side of the company”, defends the minister

< p class="e-p">François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, defended his crisis management before the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology.

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, François-Philippe Champagne

Questioned about his crisis management during of the breakdown at Rogers, Minister François-Philippe Champagne rejected all responsibility on the company in parliamentary committee.

It was the failure of Rogers […], the negligence of Rogers, repeated Mr. Champagne to several deputies who blamed him for the government's inaction 15 months after a first local breakdown of the same distributor which occurred in southern Ontario.

What happened on July 8 is unacceptable, period, hammered Mr. Champagne who appeared before the Committee on Monday morning Industry and Technology Standing to defend its crisis management during this latest outage that disrupted service to millions of Canadians for more than 15 hours on July 8th.

< p class="e-p">In his introductory remarks, the minister asserted his coercive approach as soon as he became aware of the network incident while traveling in Tokyo.

We are going to demand additional measures, said Minister Champagne, explaining his crisis management chronologically.

“I expect Rogers to compensate people appropriately. »

— François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology

A major outage disrupted the network of Rogers on July 8, and it highlights the risks associated with private ownership of critical telecommunications infrastructure in the country, according to some experts.

When remotely briefed by his team about the network issue and then the seriousness of the situation, Champagne said he himself reached out to Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri to express the frustration of thousands of Canadians. . Mr. Staffieri then acknowledged that his company had broken the bond of trust with them, relayed the minister to the parliamentary committee.

Another pitfall raised: It is not up to the Minister of Industry to contact the CEO of Rogers, it should have been the opposite, added Mr. Champagne, who says he called a meeting and asked the CEOs of major telecommunications networks of Canada to take immediate action to improve the reliability and resilience of services.

The Minister then explained that he had given them 60 days to conclude a formal agreement between them, which would avoid a another widespread failure in a collaborative approach.

“I did not ask, but demanded to enter into a formal contract […], I want it to be codified in a written contract which will be formal between the companies. We are not just in the intention, we are in the obligation. »

— François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology

Businesses have 45 days to comply. They have provided a formal commitment that they will and this is just the beginning, Mr. Champagne said.

Asked about which compels companies to comply with his orders, the minister replied: trust me, they will.

NDP MP Brian Masse then argued that in as part of an essential service, elected officials should not rely on personal influence, goodwill or if they golf with someone to fix a problem, but rather legislate .

The Tories for their part blamed the minister for sitting idly by after a previous outage at Rogers in 2021.

“Today, you are very proud to say: 'I was very directive. I spoke directly to the CEO [PDG] and I was giving them orders.” Why didn't you do this 15 months ago when there was the first problem? »

— Gérald Deltell, Conservative MP

In response, the minister replied that the two blackouts were out of proportion.

A few minutes later , Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri told elected officials, who were eagerly awaiting him, that significant progress has been made in the process of reaching an agreement to make calls to 911 possible during the outage. of a network.

Tony Staffieri and Ron McKenzie before the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology

The July 8 outage affected Rogers mobile and internet users, knocked out ATMs, shut down the Interac payment system and prevented calls to 911 services in some Canadian cities.

The outage was the result of a system failure following an update to our mainnet, the big boss explained. In other words, it touched the equivalent of the brain of the network, added Ron McKenzie, the new chief technology officer, the former having been dismissed shortly after the events.

911 calls were not routed due to technical issues, the big boss said. The assertion did not convince MP Masse who replied that on the contrary, it was for business reasons. Bell and Telus offered help, but Rogers was unable to redirect calls, the chief technology officer added.

Rogers plans to separate its wireless and internet networks, an added layer of protection that will cost at least a quarter of a billion dollars, the company says. These are urgent fixes to improve network redundancy and resilience.

Mr. Staffieri has avoided saying whether he believes his business is providing an essential service on three separate occasions. He also sidestepped a question about whether he thinks the law should provide for damages in the event of breakdowns instead of leaving it to the discretion of the supplier. In the current case, Rogers will automatically reimburse customers for five days of service.

Following the outage, industry observers called for increased competition in the telecommunications industry to lessen the impact of future outages on Canadians. Canadian consumers have alternatives, choices, insisted the CEO of Rogers who was immediately interrupted by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith who asked him if he meant that seriously.

The transaction between Rogers and Shaw is estimated at $26 billion.

The day after Rogers Communications announced new measures that it says will prevent a recurrence of a national service outage, Minister Champagne indicated that he would not allow the transfer of all of the licenses from Rogers, regarding the proposed merger with Shaw Communications.

Competition is part of resilience, it is certainly something that I have in mind, replied the Minister to Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire who asked him about the x27; accountability of telecommunications giants in a context of market monopoly.

For any response to the government actions taken, François-Philippe Champagne put forward a three-point plan including the exclusion of China's Huawei in the development of the 5G network in Canada, but also Bill C-26 on cybersecurity which would grant more power to the Minister, as well as a revision of procedures to improve emergency communications with the Canadian population.

A hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon with three representatives of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

With information from La Presse canadienne

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