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Rogers unable to switch customers to Bell, Telus during outage, despite competing carrier offers

As a result, Rogers was unable to route most 911 calls
The House of Commons industry committee will hold two hearings today about the Rogers outage that lasted more than 15 hours and left millions of Canadians in a communications blackout. People use Starbucks’ provided WIFI at a store in Toronto amid a nationwide Rogers outage, affecting many of the telecommunication company’s services, Friday, July 8, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Rogers Communications Inc. was unable to switch customers to competing carriers during the unprecedented service outage earlier this month despite offers of assistance from Bell and Telus, the company said in a document released late Friday.

The telecom giant was also unable to shut down its radio access network, which would have automatically connected customers to another carrier for 911 calls, Rogers said in a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The fresh details offer a glimpse into the multiple options considered by Rogers during the blanket outage that knocked out mobile, landline and internet service to millions of customers across Canada on July 8.

It also reveals how the sweeping outage across its network limited its ability to respond with interim solutions while it restored service.

As a result, Rogers was unable to route most 911 calls or deliver four emergency alerts during the service disruption.

Despite competitors offering assistance during the outage, the company said it was unable to switch customers to a rival carrier.

It said doing so would have required access to parts of its system that were down during the outage.

Competing networks, Rogers said in its submissions, would also not have been able to handle the extra sudden volume of wireless customers, which the company pegged at more than 10 million.

The related voice and data traffic surge could have impeded operations on the other carriers’ networks, it said.

Meanwhile, Rogers considered shutting down its radio access network during the outage, which would have automatically connected customers to another carrier for 911 calls.

But once again, the company said the outage that took down its core system made such a shutdown impossible.

Moreover, turning off the radio access network would have prolonged the outage because restoring it once its network was fixed would have taken several hours, Rogers said.

“While considered many times during the day, shutting down the (radio access network) was simply not a solution,” Rogers said in its submission to the CRTC.

“The best and fastest way to restore 911 was to restore the network itself.”

As a result, Rogers said its radio access network remained in service, preventing many customer phones from automatically attempting to connect elsewhere.

Mobile customers always have the option to remove the SIM card from their device and to then place a 911 call. The handset will automatically connect to the strongest signal for emergency calls, Rogers said.

Although the number of failed 911 calls is unknown, the company said it was able to route “thousands” during its network’s intermittent service. Some Rogers customers were able to place emergency calls using the Bell or Telus networks.

Much of the specific information Rogers submitted to the CRTC was redacted from the document for security and competitive purposes.

Rogers also said four emergency alerts, all issued in Saskatchewan, did not reach customers during the outage.

It said one alert from the RCMP was related to a dangerous person while three were tornado warnings issued by Environment Canada.

Rogers, Bell and Telus are currently discussing solutions for potential future outages, which are expected to be included in a report to Ottawa this fall.

Rogers has come under intense scrutiny from both customers and the Canadian government following the ordeal, which also affected businesses and the Interac debit system.

Chief Executive Tony Staffieri has pledged to improve the resiliency of the company’s mobile and internet network.

Company representatives are scheduled to appear before the House of Commons industry committee on Monday to further discuss the outage.

The committee held an emergency meeting on July 15 and voted unanimously to open an investigation into the outage.

The committee will seek answers about the cause of the outage, its overall effect, and best practices to avoid similar situations in the future and better communicate with the public during such emergencies.

Following the outage, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne directed Canada’s major telecom companies to reach agreements on assisting each other during outages and a communication protocol to better inform Canadians during emergencies.

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

READ ALSO: House of Commons industry committee to investigate Rogers outage

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