#Rogersoutage: another reason for more competition

Jesse Brown on the country-wide cell phone outage


Ten million Canadians across the country lost cell phone service last night, as Rogers’ wireless network went down for reasons yet unknown, or at least, undisclosed. Many of them turned to Twitter to communicate and to complain, and as I write this on Thursday morning, #Rogers remains the top Twitter hashtag in the country.  #Rogersoutage and #Rogersoutrage were also popular choices. Those who subscribe to Fido or Chatr, perhaps under the impression that these were alternatives to Rogers, also lost service, as these brands are Rogers-owned (as is Maclean’s) and function on Rogers’ network.

The knee-jerk response may be to crack jokes about our national smartphone addiction, as some have. But underlying such dismissals of our supposed First World problem is a decidedly Third World problem: if you don’t have a landline, as millions do not, losing wireless service is terrifying. (A year ago, an Angus Reid poll put the percentage of land-line free Canadians at 17 per cent. You can bet that it’s only gone up since then.)

Police services across the country took to the Internet and radio last night to advise people without phone service of any kind to roam the streets in search of a landline, seeking out the country’s disappearing pay phones or knocking on the doors of neighbours, should the need arise to dial 911. It’s amazing how quickly things devolve. 

While Rogers CEO Nadir Mohammed was quick to call the outage “unacceptable,” the company’s offer to credit customers for one day of lost service was widely ridiculed by frustrated users. But the truth is, it’s hard to imagine what the correct corporate response would have been. A week of free service might have seemed less stingy than a day, which merely compensates customers for what they’ve already paid for, to say nothing of the true economic impact of losing communication for hours and hours. Yet it’s not the lost cash that has the country so rattled. It’s the realization that we have become completely dependent on three private companies for what has become a crucial service. Regular network crashes are not among the many complaints one hears about our Big Three carriers, who collectively control over 95 per cent of the wireless market. But it only has to happen once for almost a third of the country to be knocked offline.

Clearly, Canadians need more options, more network redundancy, more companies building more infrastructure and innovative services that let us control our numbers and nimbly shift them from one carrier to another when problems arise. If we had this, we wouldn’t be so vulnerable to one company’s bad day. 

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown

Filed under:

#Rogersoutage: another reason for more competition

  1. Anybody who has ever owned a computer knows that electronic stuff sometimes breaks down – it’s annoying but it happens.

    Many Canadians are wise enough to have backup plans in case something important breaks down. If people choose to be totally dependent on just a single cell phone, that is certainly their choice. But, I choose to have a landline for backup, and I also have two furnaces in my home, extra bottles of drinking water, candles, and a battery powered radio.
    To suggest we need more competition to protect Canadians from cell phone network outages is a bit of a stretch – what happens if the power goes out and all the cell phone towers go off the air or you can’t recharge you battery – having 100 cell phone companies to choose from won’t help one bit.

    • You have two furnaces? Wow. I doubt “many” Canadians are as prepared – perhaps the proper word is paranoid – as you.

    • All my computers retired in perfect health.

  2. Bad week for Rogers..first their BlackBerry Z30 PR disaster and now this…can’t say I’m feeling sorry for them though.

  3. innovative services that let us control our numbers and nimbly shift them from one carrier to another when problems arise

    Sooooo…. you want billion dollar companies to throw out existing networks and standardize on a common platform? It’s the GSM/CDMA wars that that are your primary roadblock there after all. Good luck with that.

    As such, this isn’t an argument for more competition, it’s the direct opposite.

  4. Not having a phone is hardly ‘terrifying’ and if you do find it terrifying then I suggest we have social problems far in excess of the technical ones.

    More competition would be nice as would more redundancy the big issue, as with most things, is cost. There’s a reason competitors Bell and Telus ride the same towers.

  5. Its time to get cell phones under the UTILITY umbrella just like the
    land lines are. We wouldn’t be having this debate constantly , which
    has been going on for years and the Industry has been and still is
    milking the cell phone system for all its worth. Canada has to revisit
    the rules on the cell phone being regulated as a UTILITY. Untill we do
    the industry will perpetuate this everlasting idea that they are
    listening to us. Talking about it means these same arguments will go on
    for years and years, just like they have been. Its time to force the
    government to get involved because the Industry is out of control. Years
    ago the industry convinced the CRTC that cell phones should be excluded
    from being a Utility because their more then just a phone, they are
    Smart Phones, and most people were on a landline, CRTC agreed and the
    Telcos won out for an unregulated cell phone industry. They didn’t want
    the government to regulate prices like the landlines. Every time the
    telcos wanted to change anything they had to get government permission
    and had to explain how the changes would affect their customers. As it
    is now they can jack everyone around anytime anywhere without blinking
    an eye. Is this what people want to continue to have going for them or
    do you want real change. Now that the Industry admits most people have
    given up their landlines. In Ontario, one article states that 8 out of
    10 homes have cell phones. Its time to look into having cell phones
    being classed as a necessity and regulated as a utility just like
    electricity and natural gas. Young people today don’t remember paying 4
    cents a minute for long distance on a land line and scaring them into
    paying $40 to $50 a month minimum by scaring them with 40 or 45 cents
    per minute charge on a cell phone. Its ludicrous. People need to get
    into a letter, email, phone their MP’s frame of mind, especially before
    an election. Why is the media not pushing for UTILITY status for the
    cell phone industry. Lets see why, Bell has 15% ownership of The Globe
    and Mail , Rodgers owns 100% of MacLeans.

Sign in to comment.