I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting No. 31 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Friday, July 15, 2022, the committee is meeting to study the Rogers Communications service outages in early July.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House Order of Thursday, June 23, 2022. For members in the room, if you wish to speak, please raise your hand. For members on Zoom, please use the raise hand function. The clerk and I will manage the speaking order as best we can.
For the first hour today, we will be hearing from, and we thank him for being available, the Honourable François‑Philippe Champagne, member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. He is accompanied by Simon Kennedy, deputy minister, as well as Éric Dagenais, senior assistant deputy minister, Spectrum and Telecommunications Sector, and Mark Schaan, associate assistant deputy minister, Strategy and Innovation Policy Sector.
For the second hour, dear colleagues and members of the public, from Rogers Communications, we will be hearing from Tony Staffieri, president and chief executive officer, as well as Ron McKenzie, chief technology and information officer.
Without further delay, Mr. Minister, the floor is yours.
Mr. Chair, esteemed colleagues, it is a pleasure to be with you today.
We are here today because on July 8, something unacceptable happened in our country. I am convinced each and every one of you heard countless stories from frustrated constituents who were impacted by the Rogers outage on July 8—I know I did.
The Rogers outage concerns all Canadians, and not only the company's more than 12 million clients who were directly impacted. As I have said many times, what happened on July 8 is absolutely unacceptable, period.
Canadians rightfully deserve answers for what happened.
Mr. Chair, this is why it was so important for me to come before this committee today. Let's remember that during the outage, millions of Canadians were without cellphone and Internet access for more than 15 hours. Literally hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses had to turn customers away because they were unable to use Interac to complete transactions. Government departments lost the ability to provide services to Canadians. Most worrisome, countless Canadians lost the ability to call 911.
Again, this is simply unacceptable, full stop. That is the message I conveyed to Tony Staffieri, the CEO of Rogers, on multiple occasions since July 8. I used my voice to amplify the voice of millions of Canadians and expressed in no uncertain terms their frustration with this unprecedented outage in our country. Mr. Staffieri has acknowledged that Rogers has broken the public's trust and has agreed to taking a series of actions to address this matter promptly and decisively.
While the responsibility for the outage rests solely with Rogers, we now have to be in solution mode. That's the attitude I have adopted since the very first hours of this outage.
I was informed of the outage by my team in the late afternoon of July 8 Tokyo time—which was very early morning on July 8 here in Ottawa—as I was wrapping up a week-long mission to Japan. A few hours later, I received an update indicating that the outage now seemed more serious than originally anticipated. I immediately picked up the phone, not only to contact the CEO of Rogers, but also the CEOs of Telus and Bell to see how they could possibly help.
As soon as I landed back in Canada the next day, I convened a meeting with the CEOs of Rogers, Telus, Bell, Videotron, Shaw, SaskTel and Eastlink. I directed them to take immediate action to improve network resiliency and reliability across Canada. As a first step, I demanded that within 60 days the companies enter into a formal binding agreement ensuring and guaranteeing three things: emergency roaming, mutual assistance, and a communication protocol for advising the public and government on major outages and other emergencies.
Folks, the clock is ticking and there are 45 days left to deliver on that commitment.
In a similar fashion, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission recently adopted measures to improve network resiliency, on July 6.
As you know, the CRTC is also conducting a detailed investigation of the outage, including the measures that Rogers is putting in place to prevent similar outages. I've also directed the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee to develop additional proposals to improve network resiliency on the basis of their findings.
As I said from the outset, we will consider more measures to have the network resiliency that Canadians deserve.
To conclude, I would note that all Canadians deserve strong, reliable, affordable and resilient communications networks. That is why we are going to insist that Canada's telecom providers are better prepared to prevent future outages. We also need to continue to hold Canada's telecom providers accountable, and we will do so on behalf of Canadians.
In closing, let me say this: there are some who will see an opportunity today to talk about a number of issues relating to telcos in Canada—from competition, to the proposed Rogers‑Shaw merger, to many other subjects, I'm sure. While I'll be more than happy to answer those questions—to the extent I can—I think that today, Canadians expect us to talk about two things.
First, what happened on July 8 and why. Second, what solutions do we have going forward to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again.
With that, I will be happy to take questions from my House of Commons colleagues.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Minister, thank you for being here this morning.
You are absolutely right, we could indeed ask several questions in relation to this incident. However, I'll stick to what you suggested. I don't know if we can see this as an advantage or disadvantage, but in order to cover all of Canada, you had to contact five companies, which represent 95% of the customer base in Canada.
Do you think this incident highlights the lack of competition or the lack of players in Canada to serve the entire population and prevent this type of thing from happening again?
First of all, thank you for the question, Mr. Généreux.
In fact, there is no doubt that competition promotes resilience. It is a challenge. As you know, from the beginning, I've been talking about affordability, competition, and innovation. That's also why the first thing I did when I spoke to the president and CEO of Rogers was to express the frustration of the 12 million Canadians who had been deprived of service, the hundreds of thousands of small‑ and medium‑sized businesses across the country, but also people who deal with emergency services.
I called for immediate action to improve resilience in this country. I also asked the telecommunications companies to establish this mutual assistance agreement through a formal agreement. It already existed, but we want it to be done by contract
I also asked that we allow for the roaming that we need for emergencies in these cases. We also need a better communication protocol with Canadians. I also think that, in this regard, I have expressed the frustration of Canadians regarding the problem of communicating with citizens and customers during this unprecedented outage in the country.
Mr. Minister, we know that 95% of the Canadian population is served by about five or six large companies. You talked about the lack of resilience and the problem of being in a situation where almost a third, if not half of Canadians are no longer able to communicate, particularly with emergency services.
You have asked the companies to talk to each other and establish a contract. I'm in business myself, and I know that all companies have different levels of commitment when it comes to investments, prioritization of areas served, and so on.
You spoke to the executives of Bell, Telus and Videotron. These companies do not see themselves at the same level, not only in terms of competitiveness, but also in terms of the infrastructure that they share or own.
What assurances have you received from their leadership that in 45 days, as you said, this agreement will indeed be concluded?
Have you obtained a commitment from these companies?
Yes, I have obtained this commitment.
When I spoke to the heads of the companies, the issue could not have been more serious. In fact, I didn't ask, but demanded that they establish a formal contract to do three specific things.
It's good to have a mutual assistance arrangement, but I want it to be established by a formal contract between the companies. I also want emergency roaming codified and to have a well‑established communication protocol with government and customers.
So it wasn't just about intent, it was about obligation, and I was assured—
First, there is no doubt that telecommunications companies in Canada listen to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, who is the regulator. Second, I have the formal commitment of the executives of each of the companies. I can tell you that when I spoke to them, it was not a time for opinions. What I asked them was clear and direct. It was a formal requirement. You'll have the opportunity to verify that, because I think you'll have the president of Rogers as a witness.
A committee has been formed, which is overseen by the Canadian Telecom Resilience Working Group. It's an existing working group, co‑chaired by representatives of Rogers and Éric Dagenais, a senior official in our department. They are leading the work that will be done in the remaining 45 days.
Mr. Généreux, I can tell you that when I called the company executives and asked them to come on Monday, everyone showed up to find solutions. I think everyone recognized that we have experienced an unacceptable incident and that immediate action is needed.
I must be clear with you, Mr. Généreux: this is only the beginning. I told the executives that I am going to demand even more from them. The CRTC will still continue its investigation, and we will review the recommendations that will be made. Then, I will require further action from these companies.
I can tell you that, at this point, company executives agree with me that more needs to be done to increase the resiliency of telecom services in this country.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Minister, it's so good to see you. It's been a while. Thank you very much for coming to the committee.
I woke up on July 8 and couldn't get any of my devices working. Like many Canadians, my family has a bundled service with Rogers—for more than 20 years—so it caused a bit of panic. Luckily, one of my work phones was served by Bell, so I learned from social media, as reported by all news outlets, that there was a massive outage, but there wasn't any communication from Rogers until closer to noon.
As Rogers customers, we all wanted to know what happened and when the service would be returned.
You acted very quickly on that weekend, reaching out to Rogers, but before you reached out, were any proactive measures taken on Rogers' side to explain to you, as the head of the department, what was going on or happening?
Thank you very much, MP Dong. It's great to see you again as well, my friend.
As you know, I was wrapping up a mission in Japan as the events unfolded, when I was made aware of the initial issue that we had with the Rogers network. With the time difference, I think it was in the very early hours in Tokyo, if I recall—around 4 or 5 a.m.—that I was made aware it was more serious. At that point, I did reach out immediately to Tony Staffieri, the CEO of Rogers.
Obviously, he understood the seriousness of the situation and the obligation he had to inform the minister of industry of the situation. On that call, I first inquired about the network situation and how long it would take. Obviously, at that moment I was expressing the frustration of millions of Canadians, but I was also in solution mode. When you have a crisis of that nature, which is unprecedented....
Immediately after that call, I reached out to the CEOs of Bell and Telus. Everyone offered their assistance. The Canadian Telecom Resiliency Working Group was also called upon to make sure that an update was provided by Rogers, but I would say, MP Dong, my takeaway from what happened....
This is why I demanded—I did not ask, I demanded—three things from the telecom companies in Canada, as I landed in Canada a few hours later.
I convened a meeting with them. First, I wanted to formalize the mutual assistance agreement. I knew that some form of informal mutual assistance existed between the networks, but I said, “This is not good enough for Canadians. Now you need to enter into a binding formal agreement to include that.”
The second thing was emergency roaming, and that is quite similar to what the Federal Communications Commission did in the United States recently on July 6.
However, I went beyond that, MP Dong, to address exactly what you said. They failed to inform the Canadian public properly. They failed to inform the Government of Canada properly. It should not be up to the Minister of Industry to reach out to the CEO of Rogers. It should be the other way—
Let's make sure we don't confuse the time zones, because let's remember, MP Dong, that I was in Tokyo at that moment. When I said four or five, I meant 4 or 5 a.m. Tokyo time. This was still pretty much early morning for me in Tokyo, so one would have to work back.
I immediately called Tony Staffieri. Your point, if I may, MP Dong, is exactly the point that I made to them. It should not be for the minister to chase the CEO of a major telco in Canada when something like this happens. Rather, it should be the other way around.
That's why I insisted on the three points I noted. I want a formal agreement, and I insisted that we have a communication protocol first with the public, because the public is entitled to know what's going on, and second with the Government of Canada. It's to make sure that when any such thing happens, there's a better communication channel.
I must say that since this happened, the CEO of Rogers has reached out to me to update me regularly, and I think we already see improvements in that respect. This needs to be codified, and that's what the formal binding agreement will be doing.
I'm happy to see you again, Mr. Lemire.
First, let me tell you that the telemeeting I held was with the heads of the telecom companies. The CRTC, which is an independent body, did not attend this meeting.
In the early hours of the outage, when we were still wondering if it was a cyber‑attack, in the first discussion I had with the president of Rogers, he informed me of what had happened. He explained to me the initial findings of an internal investigation. He told me that the company had asked international experts to help them determine the nature of the outage. They also asked their equipment vendors to help get the system back online as quickly as possible.
I spoke to the president of Rogers another time later. Later, we had this telemeeting with the heads of the other six major telecommunications companies in the country. That's the timeline.
It's good to see you as well.
One thing that's concerning about this is that the strategy you employed probably commands the respect you deserve from the legislation—which is almost none. I say this because the legislation that we have to kind of put in some oversight is different from other communities and other countries.
A good example is Australia. They control their actual system, and the actual industry competes amongst the system.
Obviously this is an essential service. COVID proved that our connections are essential in terms of our operations.
What is the government going to do to restore this as an essential service and put some legislative teeth behind this issue? It's similar to a public utility. If not, then we have to rely upon any minister being buddy-buddy with a bunch of CEOs, who are also getting a lot of handouts from the public at any point in time, for accountability.
I don't find that is enough. What legislative measures are you going to take to actually have more command and respect from the industry, regardless of who is in the CEO seat and who is in the minister's seat?
I hope that if you're going to look towards the committee, you could also look towards the committee that is not fooling around with the Shaw-Rogers takeover. We've already spoken about that and are opposed to it. I don't know why we're still fooling around with that. Hopefully you'll take that seriously, as we should be moving on from that.
Right now, under the legislation, what penalty will Rogers, the CEO, staff or whoever...? Will the company pay a fine? Will anyone go to jail? Will there be any problems or repercussions? What actually protects consumers? Rogers is doing a refund to some customers. What is in the legislation that actually mandates specifics? Are those things going to happen?
From my understanding of the legislation, they're not going to happen. If I'm wrong, then let us know. If not, are you going to actually employ those things that are going to be in law—not just a minister's opinion—for the actual industry?
If you want to be on the same side here, instead of just the minister's opinion, which could change.... We've had former minister Bernier in that seat before and I've seen the policies not change and not be that different over the last number of years.
I'm on the side of Canadians who want—regardless of whatever minister is going to be there—accountability to the public through their own individual strength and worth as a citizen, not necessarily relying upon egos or people who are going to change seats at the CEO table. Those things are all things we can't control. What we can control is a legislative approach.
This is an essential service. It's like a public utility that strengthens the individual and collective rights of Canadians. That's the side I want to be on.
I don't want to be on the side where we have to rely upon influence, goodwill, personal relations and whether they're golfing with somebody or not. I don't want to rely on these things; I want to rely on legislation.
I would disagree with the characterization that you made. What I said very specifically, and the record will show it, is that what happened in 2021 was nothing like we have experienced now.
The department and CRTC have been looking at 911 for a number of months. What we want now, and what we've seen with the recent outage, is that we need more resilience. That's exactly what I have demanded from the telcos.
Like I said, I was pleased that the CEO of Rogers said over the weekend that it's working actively on that.
We will continue. We made spectrum available for 911. We're making sure that we do everything we can from our side. The CRTC needs to do its job. We did ours; they need to do theirs. As parliamentarians, we need to hold people to account.
First of all, I think of the communication, and I would invite you as members of the committee to see.... You're going to have Rogers executives coming, and I think their communication with the public was one thing. I think the Canadian public deserves better answers when something like this happens, and I would say government officials as well.
I was very clear in that meeting that these were only the first steps and that more steps would be needed, but we need to get to the root cause. It's a bit like with an air incident investigation: You need to get to the root cause to understand what really happened, what the fail-safe measures were, what the review process was like and who was involved, trying to better understand.
With that body of evidence, recommendations will be coming from the CRTC. As MP Gray said, the CRTC will be investigating. We will be taking up these recommendations, and I told them that I'm going to be looking at them and will likely be demanding that additional steps be taken to improve the resiliency of the network in Canada.
Mr. Minister, we know that Rogers has a $26 billion financial commitment to acquire Shaw and that Rogers has invested little in its network over the past four or five years. You obviously mention the importance of improving the resiliency of the networks so that they are reliable, affordable and resilient.
Does the presence of a fourth player, particularly in the cell phone market, make sense here?
In my opinion, this is obvious. It's also competition that makes people and companies more responsible and that they will invest more in the robustness of their network.
Do you see a link?
First of all, thank you for your question, Mr. Lemire.
As I've said all along, competition is part of resilience. It's certainly something I have in mind.
I can tell you that I also saw a communication over the weekend from the president of Rogers about additional investments to improve network resiliency.
As I was saying earlier to our colleagues, we have to remember that it is a company's fault. We need to understand what happened to it, learn from it, and make sure that everyone is more resilient across the country.
As I said earlier, we really need to raise the bar. It's about seeing what others are doing, what wasn't done at Rogers, and what we need to learn from this incident.
With respect to the proposed merger that was submitted, I have said from the outset that I would not allow the transfer of all of Shaw's licences to Rogers. I have also said that what has happened in the last few days will obviously be on my mind and, I imagine, on the minds of other regulatory bodies when a proposal comes before my department that I will have to make a decision on.
MP Masse, you know me. I'm one who always co-operates with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. As I said, the immediate action I took within hours were first steps. I did not exclude anything. I'm happy to listen to this committee and its recommendations.
I think one thing we can work on together is the new CRTC policy direction. Some have called it “historic” in changing the nature of what matters to this government and, I would say, to Canadians largely, that it is competition and affordability.
I have been very tough on the telecom companies because this was warranted. Like I said, they listened to me when I demanded.... No one was suggesting otherwise. They said, “Minister, we will do exactly what you want within the timeline.”
To your point of whether there could be additional steps taken in terms of what powers would be needed in addition to Bill , I would be happy to look at what this committee can recommend, and I certainly will look at that.
Good morning, Mr. Minister. Thank you for your presentation.
You reported on the actions you took beginning on July 8 and in the hours that followed. You were in Tokyo, you came back and made those calls.
The problem is that a similar situation had already occurred—not as serious as the one we experienced this year, though—involving the same player, Rogers. On April 19, 2021, in southern Ontario, hundreds of thousands of people were affected by a Rogers outage. From coast to coast, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, the impact was major. Each Canadian citizen who was affected by this situation unfortunately had to relive the same situation 15 months later.
What has your government done, as of April 19, 2021, to prevent another unfortunate situation like this one from occurring?
Thank you for your question, Mr. Deltell.
First, as you said, this was a different kind of outage. I made it very clear to millions of Canadians, as well as to the head of Rogers, that this was absolutely unacceptable.
I would answer your question by saying that we have done three things to make our telecommunications systems more resilient. The first was to affirm our intention to exclude Huawei and ZTE from 4G and 5G networks in Canada.
The second thing was to introduce Bill , as you know. I mentioned earlier that this will provide increased authority for cybersecurity, but also, and I think this is important for the committee, it will give the Minister of Industry additional powers. As we know, security is not currently one of the objectives of the Telecommunications Act.
The third thing, and I'll stop here, concerns the new CRTC directive on resilience.
So these steps had already been taken, and we are certainly going to continue to do more, as I said at the outset.
When the April 19, 2021 outage occurred, why weren't you as proactive as you were this year?
I realize that more people were affected this time, but are you going to tell those who went through this twice that it wasn't as important the first time because fewer people were affected?
I realize that you're flexing your muscles today to show how proactive you were in 2022. The rub, however, is that the same thing happened 15 months before the 2022 outage—with less serious consequences, I admit—and the root of the problem is exactly the same.
Why didn't your government take the proactive action you are claiming to take now when the same thing happened 15 months ago?
Mr. Deltell, look at what the U.S. did on July 6.
We are doing more than what the Americans did on July 6. We have taken three measures, and we have identified the problem. We have demanded that the providers take swift concrete action, and we'll be doing more.
I urge you, as a member of the committee, to ask those questions of the person who should be held to account, the president of Rogers.
On our end, we are going to work with you to make sure we build a more resilient system for Canadians.
The first thing we need to do is improve resiliency and competition.
I also spoke with the head of Interac, and I think there are lessons to be learned when it comes to building more redundancy into networks.
As I told Mr. Deltell, the head of Rogers has to answer some serious questions. I asked him those questions, but I think the committee has a role to play in getting to the bottom of what happened and identifying what further measures need to be taken.
We took some immediate actions after the outage, first to restore connectivity, but then to increase resiliency. I hope the committee can get to the bottom of things. The CRTC is doing that, and its recommendations will inform the additional measures we take. We all want the same thing, after all.
We want a more resilient network, and that is what I've demanded of the country's telecommunications companies. We want them to work together to build the enhanced resilience Canadians expect from the country's telecommunications system.
They need to have one within the next 45 days, because that's one of the three requirements I set out for the country's telecommunications carriers.
I think you've touched on the frustration of the over 12 million Rogers customers, who did not get the information they needed during the outage. Seeing what transpired, we directed the carriers to provide what I call emergency roaming, like our neighbours to the south, but we went further by requiring the companies to develop a very clear communication protocol in the event of another outage of this magnitude.
That means a communication protocol needs to be in place to ensure not only Canadians, but also government authorities, are adequately informed. That way, the authorities can provide support to the companies affected should something like this happen again.
Thank you for your question.
The next logical step is to see what the CRTC recommends once its investigation is complete. Obviously, I'm going to look carefully at the CRTC's recommendations to see what other requirements we can set out for Canada's telecommunications carriers. Keep in mind that the three measures I have already asked for need to be formally implemented in the next 45 days.
The next step, then, is the CRTC's investigation and recommendations, followed by the implementation of additional measures to improve resiliency.
Of course, the committee may have its own recommendations, which I will pay close attention to.
Honourable members, please be seated. We are resuming the meeting of the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology.
We'll resume meeting number 31 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Friday, July 15, 2022, for this committee to shed some light on the Rogers Communications service outages in early July.
Without further ado, we have with us here today Mr. Tony Staffieri, president and chief executive officer of Rogers.
Also with us is Ron McKenzie, Rogers' chief information and technology officer.
Thank you for being here today.
Without further ado, I will turn the floor over to you for five minutes.
Good afternoon, Chair and members of the committee. Thank you for the invitation to be with you.
My name is Tony Staffieri, and I am president and CEO of Rogers Communications. I am joined today by our new chief technology officer, Ron McKenzie.
I appear before you today, because as Rogers' CEO, I'm accountable for the outage that occurred on July 8. I'm also responsible for the specific actions we are taking as a company to make sure this does not happen again.
On that day, we failed to deliver on our promise to be Canada's most reliable network. More than a marketing slogan, we know just how critical the wireless phone and Internet services that Rogers provides are. Canadians need to be able to reach their families, businesses need to be able to accept payments and, most importantly, emergency calls to 911 simply have to work every time.
To those who were impacted by our outage, I am sorry.
Today I want to share with you how we are working to win back the trust and confidence of Canadians.
I will start with what happened and why there was a delay in restoring our service. I'll discuss the important steps we're taking to help prevent this from happening again, and I'll conclude with some of the steps we have begun to take to make things better for our customers.
Simply put, this outage was a result of a system failure following an update in our core network.
Given the enormous complexity of all modern networks, understanding what caused the outage took some time. Once the cause was identified, our technical experts needed more time to methodically bring traffic back up, as we had millions of customers trying to access their phones, home TV and Internet, all at about the same time.
To manage those returning traffic volumes, we had to physically disconnect the impacted equipment. Throughout this process, we had one singular and overriding focus: to get our customers up and running as quickly as we possibly could.
I understand the frustration our customers felt in not knowing when our networks would be back online. I wanted a timeline, but the fact is that we did not have one and didn't want to provide an estimate that might turn out to be wrong.
In the conversations I've had with customers and with small and large business owners, there is one thing everybody wants to know: What is Rogers doing, today, now, to learn from this outage and ensure it won't happen again?
I've said we will make every investment needed to do our best to make sure that won't happen. That investment begins with the work now under way through our enhanced reliability plan. Working with the government and our competitors, we are making significant progress on a formal agreement to ensure that 911 calls can always be made, even in the event of an outage on any carrier's network.
Making this a reality is the only responsible way forward, and I am personally committed to making it possible for all Canadians. I would like to thank for his leadership on this.
When it comes to our network, we will do our part and then some. To guard against a system-wide outage, we will set a higher standard by physically separating our wireless and Internet networks and creating an “always on” network. To be frank, this added layer of protection will be expensive. We estimate that it will cost at least a quarter of a billion dollars, but we know it is the right thing to do.
We will also continue with our plan to invest heavily in reliability. We will spend over $10 billion over the next few years to build out and strengthen our network. This investment includes additional oversight, more testing and greater use of artificial intelligence to ensure that the upgrades we make to our network work as intended.
Finally, we have partnered with leading technology firms to do a full review of our network systems to learn from the outage and emerge stronger.
When this work is complete, we will share the key lessons with our competitors and other industry partners.
When it comes to making things better for those who were impacted by our outage, we have already extended five days of credit to every Rogers' customer. As well, we are working with our business customers to better understand the implications of the outage on their organizations.
Chair, I know that it is only through our actions and with time that we can restore Canadians' confidence in us. We can and we will do better.
I thank the committee for inviting us to speak with you today, and I look forward to your questions.
First of all, the events are very, very different.
Let me speak to the event of July 8. The way to characterize it is that there was no way for the engineer at the time.... When it had been performed five times prior with no incident whatsoever, there was no belief, no information at the time, that there was going to be any issue.
What happened was that when the code change was executed and the filter removed, the behaviour of the equipment, in the way it's designed between one vendor and a second vendor, was very different. That was the unknown at the time: the behaviour of one device, one manufacturer, who executes a standard one way, versus another manufacturer. It was that sequence that caused essentially the event to then flood the core network.
We have co-operated, and we will continue to, with all levels of government and provide complete transparency on this incident. As you can appreciate, networks today are extremely complex. We will do everything that's available to us in terms of investment in resources and working with leading firms around the world to make sure we put in the resiliency and the redundancy we need to make sure this does not happen again.
We've talked about our plans, which I'll describe very generally and my colleague will go through the details on. There are really four main points. The first is physically separating our wireless and wireline networks so that if one were to go down in the future, we could switch over to the alternate. The second is what we describe as partitioning our network. If an incident happens in one specific location, we contain that problem to that specific location. The third is the changes we'll make to our processes and procedures in reviewing and implementing code, including the testing of it.
Finally, we are working on the memorandum of understanding with Minister Champagne's office that will allow us to more effectively work with our competitors so that in the event of an emergency and an outage, we can transfer over calls but most importantly ensure that every single 911 call transfers over to an alternate network.
Okay. I think that's as close to a “yes” as I'm likely to get. I'll take that.
We heard Minister Champagne refer to the incident and compare it to an airline incident. Airlines, as you know, like your industry, are oligopolies. They're tightly regulated and they are essential for Canadians. In that setting, as my colleague Brian Masse referenced earlier, if something like this were to happen, it wouldn't be that the company would say, of its own volition, that it's going to provide two days' or five days' or seven days' compensation. There would be obligations for a certain compensation.
Do you think there ought to be a regulatory framework and legal framework, and that it shouldn't be up to you to decide what to compensate Canadians, but up to the law?
Well, let me return to this question of competition. At this committee, we continue to come back to this question. It's always been around price, and this frustration when we look to how much Canadians pay in comparison to other countries. It's a great source of consternation for me and other members of this committee, I think across all parties.
The other lesson we've learned from this outage is that the lack of competition not only means that Canadians are suffering as it relates to price but also that the resilience of the network is challenged.
When we get to this idea of opening up networks from competitors to your customers, in the context of the outage, you told the CRTC that “no competitor's network would have been able to handle the extra and sudden volume of wireless users (over 10.2M) and the related voice/data traffic surge.”
Isn't the concentration of customers in one particular company, not only for the sector, but let's say your company in particular, a challenge to resilience in and of itself?
Thank you for being here today, gentlemen.
I find your attitude refreshing. You've come before the committee in all humility and without complacency.
You said that you were accountable and that Rogers had failed. That's a good place to start rebuilding trust in the short, medium and long term.
I have a whole lot of questions about the state of Rogers' governance right now. Basically, it all comes down to one man, you, Mr. Staffieri.
We know that almost every member of Rogers' board was fired last year.
We also know that your company experienced a major outage some 15 months ago. Back then, we didn't sense the same level of accountability we are seeing from you today.
We know that you fired your chief technology officer, Mr. Fernandes. I gather he was held responsible for the outage.
You control nearly half of the country's telecommunications infrastructure, so tell us how we are now supposed to trust you to lead the way forward in the short, medium and long term?
Thank you for your question, sir. You touched on a few things.
Since becoming the CEO of this company early this year, my focus has been on a number of things, but importantly the network. Network resiliency is very important. The amount of investment we have made in the network is significantly more than we have made in prior years, and we'll continue to do more. The outage has shown us that it's critical to make those investments.
We want to make changes quickly. There are things we know we need to do, and we learned from the outage, so we acted very quickly. I have full confidence that our new chief technology officer, Ron McKenzie, will execute on those changes. Ron is an engineer by background and has over 30 years of telecom experience at a very senior level. Most recently, he was president of our business operations, where he led the design and implementation of complex technical solutions for our customers. I have full confidence that he and his team will execute on the changes that we need to make to achieve what we need to do in terms of network performance.
At the end of the day, it was a business decision because there wasn't the provision of cash.
It's either one of two things. It's either a technical problem, which we have to discuss as a committee if we're letting our carriers do that, or we're letting them make decisions that don't prioritize it enough to actually have the redundancy. That's the follow-up that I think is necessary to find out, to make sure....
You had this problem before, and there was a promise to fix it. What happened between that time back in 2021 and today? That's where I think consumer confidence has to be reasserted, for the business application aspect.
I think we might have to separate the 911 itself at the committee, but what happened between then and now? What's different? Why didn't that fix from 2021 get done for this situation?
Thank you. I have one quick question left. I'm sorry to interrupt, but it is an important one that I wanted to get in.
Part of the problem we have right now is that nobody in your organization thought to call the minister, even with 911 being down.
Now you're kind of making up stuff in terms of what to do next for consumers and things like that. It's not a negative comment. It's the same with the minister: He's making up some new things in terms of regulatory...and processes.
Would Rogers support a universal process that's transparent for consumers, businesses and the public, for all carriers, so that there would be like a bill of rights for consumers and carriers alike? It doesn't matter whether you're sitting in the seat or somebody else is in the future. Is that something Rogers would support?
Thank you, Mr. Staffieri and Mr. McKenzie.
I believe you have customers in Quebec. In fact, I know you do since I, too, was affected by the outage. I wasn't able to use the Interac system.
Was the Quebec government notified as quickly as Mr. Champagne was? My understanding is that Quebec government officials had to call you because you didn't contact them.
Did you notify the Government of Quebec of your service outage?
In response to the first part of the question, we do have an emergency response team. Shortly after the incident occurred, that team, which is well prepared, pulled together the resources needed to go through a plan that is put in place well in advance on how to react to these types of situations. We were delayed in this instance because our own network had gone completely dark. Nonetheless, we quickly made arrangements for alternative connectivity and that caused some delay.
Notwithstanding that, in terms of communication, broadcast started as early as 5:30 in the morning that there was a network problem. We did not know fully until much later the full extent and that it was a national outage. Once we knew, we communicated that on social media, which was just before 9 a.m., and on radio stations.
When I spoke to Canadians—customers—afterwards, what they really wanted to know, which is what we wanted to know, was the root cause and when this was going to be fixed. We didn't know the answer to that. We always strive to be extremely transparent with customers and Canadians and share as much information as we know, but we didn't know the answer to those questions. As we got more information, we shared that publicly. We did not know until late afternoon that we had a fix that would allow the network to come back up. Once we knew that, we promptly communicated it through all the relevant media channels.
I guess I hesitate, because I've seen that show before, where we have a few industry players together and meeting in private and where there's no public access to any of those meetings. The minister can follow up, but the minister won't be able to provide documents, or doesn't have to, even to Parliament or this committee.
I fail to see how this process is going to build public trust. I think the other carriers that are going to be involved in this are probably going to get their reputations brought into this as well. Quite frankly, what's happened is that either through public negligence, through Parliament and the processes that we've had here, or through the industry itself, we have failed collectively on 911, something that was supposed to be guaranteed.
I'll finish with this, Mr. Chair. I don't think this process is going to satisfy the public. Those meetings will not be public. There will be heavily redacted materials. We'll have to go to access to information to find out what is going on even for scheduling and so forth.
I'm worried about it at this point in time, Mr. Chair.
Let me outline a few principles. Shutting down our radio access network—or the RAN, as it's commonly referred to—is not a significant decision. To be able to shut down the RAN, you need to have access to the network. When our network went down, it was dark until approximately 10:30 a.m. The earliest we could consider the RAN shutdown was after 10:30.
Mrs. Tracy Gray: Okay, um—
Mr. Tony Staffieri: If I could finish, we considered that option, but by that point we had already started to see areas where our network started to come back on, and so we decided not to shut off the RAN. Had we done that, it would have, in all likelihood, extended the outage for at least another day. That was a significant decision that needed to be made, and we took the view, given that we were seeing opportunities to get our network up and running sooner, we made the decision to not shut down the RAN.
That wraps up our second and final round.
Thank you, Mr. Staffieri and Mr. McKenzie, for making yourselves available to meet with the committee.
I would also like to thank the clerk, the interpreters, the analysts and the support staff.
Just a reminder for all members and the public that the committee will be meeting again this afternoon at two o'clock to examine the Rogers service outage that occurred in early July.
Thank you everyone.
The meeting is adjourned.