Canada's biggest telecom company claims outage was caused by botched 'maintenance'

Rogers HQ
(Image credit: Bloomberg (Getty Images))

Update 7/10/22: According to the BBC, Rogers Communications CEO Tony Staffieri attributed the country-wide outage in communications to a malfunction following "a maintenance update" in the telecom's core network. This is the second major outage from Rogers in 15 months, and has left many questioning the company's stewardship of a network relied on by emergency services, businesses, and millions of ordinary Canadians.

Update 7/9/22: According to AP reporting, Rogers Communications has restored power to "the vast majority" of customers following a 15-hour outage that affected almost all of Canada. The company has apologized for the disruption, but still hasn't offered an explanation for why internet access, cellular communication, payment processing, and even emergency services were cut off in such a totalizing fashion. At least now the good people of Toronto can enjoy the Weeknd's postponed performance at the Rogers Centre.

Original Story: Rogers Communications, the largest telecommunications company in Canada, has suffered a massive service outage that has knocked out internet access, mobile service, and landlines across the country. The outage has also impacted ATMs and Interac machines, according to a Global News report, and some customers have also reported difficulty accessing 911 services.

Services went offline early on July 8, although Rogers didn't acknowledge the issue until around 9 am ET, right about the time I started trying to figure out why my internet wasn't working. Unfortunately, the cause of the problem still has not been revealed: The Rogers website says only that it is "experiencing a network outage and are working to restore services as quickly as possible."

Bell and Telus, the other major telecom companies in Canada, have both said that their services are not impacted by the Rogers outage., however, currently shows large spikes in outage complaints for both (Bell, Telus), and my own Bell mobile service, which I initially used in an attempt to contact Rogers support—which is also offline—and then as a Wifi hotspot, has also been unusually slow and inconsistent.

It may or may not be a cause for heightened concern (although I can't say it's lowered my own personal stress level) but the Communications Security Establishment, Canada's national cybersecurity agency, confirmed that it has been in contact with Rogers and "offered assistance," should it be needed.

Some Rogers customers are doing their best to handle the outage with good humor:

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But there's considerable anger, too. Canada's telecommunications market is tightly regulated, and meaningful competition is non-existent. Smaller mobile carriers, like Fido, Chatr, and Koodo, are owned by the big companies; there are other internet providers in the country but they service relatively tiny swaths of the population. The loss of Rogers service has had widespread and unpredictable repercussions: Some travelers are unable to access services required to allow them back in, Rogers customers cannot reach emergency services, and even things like wading pools in Toronto are unable to open because service is down. 

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Ironically, the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission, the federal agency charged with regulating telecoms companies, is also out.

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Rogers suffered a similar mass outage in April 2021, which it eventually said was caused by a software update that didn't work out quite as planned. That failure was centered largely in Ontario, Canada's most populous province, and lasted for most of a day; this one is fully nationwide.

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 The good news is that we have not yet devolved into roving bands of armed cannibals: So far, the feeling seems to be that if it had to happen, at least it happened on a Friday. (Although that feeling isn't necessarily shared by Bell and Telus customers.) The bad news is that roughly eight hours into our surprise slide back into the dark ages, there's still no sign of a possible cause or timeline for repair.

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Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.