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View Michael Kram Profile
CPC (SK)
Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to call this meeting to order. Welcome to meeting number 32 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 outage.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House of Commons order of Thursday, June 23, 2022.
I would like to welcome our witnesses today. From the CRTC, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, we have Ian Scott, chairperson and chief executive officer; Fiona Gilfillan, executive director of telecommunications; and Michel Murray, director of dispute resolution and regulatory implementation, telecommunications. We have Mr. Scott and Mr. Murray joining us today in person and Ms. Gilfillan on Zoom.
Welcome to the committee.
I understand that Mr. Scott will be making a presentation for starters.
Mr. Scott, you have the floor. You have five minutes.
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2022-07-25 14:02
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, members, for inviting us to appear before your committee.
I note here that we're on traditional unceded Algonquin territory, and I'd like to pay respect to their elders.
I'm very pleased to speak to you today about the Rogers national outage.
As you mentioned, I'm joined by two of my colleagues—Ms. Gilfillan remotely and Michel with me here.
I would begin by saying that, as you know, the widespread outage disrupted millions of Canadians and Canadian businesses across the country. Most importantly, it prevented access to services such as 911, emergency alerting and other critical infrastructure services. That is simply unacceptable.
Canadians rely on wireless and Internet services in their day-to-day lives. They depend on them to be productive at work and at school and to remain connected to their families and, of course, to essential services.
The CRTC takes the safety, security, and wellness of Canadians very seriously and one of our key objectives is that Canadians always have access to a reliable and efficient communications system.
The stability and resilience of telecom networks have been and continue to be a major focus of the work of the CRTC. Our focus must be on protecting networks by having contingency plans in place.
It's important to note also that this outage was not the result of a cyber-attack. I know that you've now heard it from the minister and Rogers' CEO themselves, but it is worth repeating. As stated by Rogers, it was caused by a fault in a maintenance upgrade. Rogers must take the necessary steps to prevent another crisis like this one from happening.
As noted by Minister Champagne, Rogers' communications during the outage were unacceptable. Communications with the government were poor, as were communications with other organizations and, most importantly, communications with the public and with its customers. Rogers said it will do better. The CRTC will make sure it does.
As the regulator, what have we done so far? Our first step on July 12 was to request a detailed account from Rogers as to why and how this happened and, more importantly, what measures Rogers is putting in place to prevent such future outages. We received Rogers' response on Friday and immediately began reviewing the information to ensure completeness and adequacy. We are now in the process of determining next steps, but I will assure you that we will act quickly.
We'll also continue to work with ISED and with the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee—I'm henceforth going to say CSTAC, as it's easier—in order to implement the three objectives already identified by Minister Champagne. In addition, we'll be co-operating with other government organizations and the industry to identify and address any outstanding technical issues that have been identified. This will include work done by the CRTC's interconnection steering committee's emergency services working group, also known as ESWG, as the effective delivery of 911 calls is, of course, crucial.
We believe in the need to be transparent. We will ensure that Rogers shares everything Canadians need to know about the outage and the measures subsequently put in place.
This is not just about Rogers. Network convergence and climate change events are increasingly putting our networks at risk. That is why, in addition to addressing this outage, along with the initial strong actions announced by Minister Champagne, we will be taking longer-term action to ensure that all telecommunications providers better protect Canadians.
The resiliency of the national communications network is a top priority for the CRTC. We all know it is instrumental to the country's safety, security, and economic integrity.
Mr. Chair and esteemed members, thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you. My colleagues and I would be pleased to try to answer your questions.
View Michael Kram Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Scott.
For the first round of questions, we have Tracy Gray from the Conservative Party for six minutes.
Ms. Gray, the floor is yours.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for being here.
Do you have a role in risk assessment of those you regulate?
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2022-07-25 14:07
If you mean in terms of the networks themselves, that type of risk assessment is typically conducted by the industry department, which would audit certain technical practices. It has the ESWG committee, where industry and ISED representatives work together to address those types of issues.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
I understand that the CRTC mandate says, “Ensure Canadians can access emergency communication services. We make sure that Canadians can access services such as 9-1-1 and are warned through a public alerting system in the event of imminent perils.” Is this correct? Is that in your mandate letter?
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2022-07-25 14:08
As an arm's-length regulator, we don't have mandate letters, but I understand the point of your question. That's part of our responsibilities. We take them very seriously.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Right. It's on your website. It says that you have a mandate to do what I read. Do you believe that you're fulfilling that mandate?
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2022-07-25 14:08
Yes, I do.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Okay. Do you believe, as a regulator, that you do have a role to also look at risk assessment for those you regulate, such as the telecommunications companies, looking back at what part of your mandate is?
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2022-07-25 14:08
I guess it comes down to what we mean when we're talking about a risk assessment. I would look at it, as a regulator, more from the perspective of outcomes. What I am most concerned about—and this is a perfect example—is that emergency services, alert services and connectivity are available and provided. If there are measures we need to take that are part of our mandate as set out in the Telecommunications Act, then absolutely we should act on them.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
We know there have been two massive outages in just over a year, but with no service to 911. Add in that emergency alerts were down in July of this year. One dangerous person alert by the RCMP and three Environment Canada tornado warnings never worked.
As the regulator, in looking at what your mandate is, which I've read out—and we know this is part of your mandate—do you accept some responsibility for not having adequate oversight, which led to this Rogers national outage?
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2022-07-25 14:09
I'm certainly not trying to understate the significance of the CRTC's role, but perhaps it's best to take a step back.
I would indicate that the 911 network was fully functional and has a 99.49% reliability rate. It is operated by three carriers: Bell, Telus and SaskTel. The issue here is that Rogers lost complete connectivity, so it was unable to pass on 911 calls.
I would also distinguish it from the earlier outage, which was about the radio access network. I don't want to start throwing around technical terms, but it related only to the wireless segment. The radio access network was down, which meant that 911 calls did go through. They would go to any other carrier with an active antenna in reach of the 911 call, as designed.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
Okay. Thank you.
I understand that the 911 action plan came out in 2014. One area was reviewing how network outages could affect services.
Over the past six years, from then to this outage, how is it that something like this was not adequately prepared for?
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2022-07-25 14:11
I might ask my colleague Mr. Murray to add in a second, but I guess one way of saying it is that it was very difficult to prepare for something that is truly unprecedented in the sense that this impacted the core of Rogers' network. This meant, as you heard from their CEO this morning and I think elsewhere, they were unable to connect. It was a very unusual circumstance.
Rogers, as you pointed out, had an outage. Other companies have outages from time to time. That will affect some services, and we follow up with them in each case, but this was unprecedented. We now need to focus on how we assure, in this type of situation, that emergency services are connected.
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