Rogers begs for forgiveness after in the aftermath of massive outage

Canadian telco Rogers suffered a major outage earlier this month and is under pressure to ensure such a thing never happens again.

But first come the obligatory struggle sessions, in which the Rogers CEO must be seen to be grovelingly contrite in throwing himself upon the mercy of his customers and the authorities. This week these took the form of an open letter to customers and a grilling by a House of Commons standing committee on industry and technology.

The letter wasn’t the first written by Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri since the 8 July outage, but this most recent one attempted to add some substance to previous vows of atonement. The most delicate consequence of the outage was how it affected critical comms and the Canadian government had previously stated it now wants all national operators to find some way of supporting each other in such worst-case scenarios.

“We have made meaningful progress on a formal agreement between carriers to switch 911 calls to each other’s networks automatically – even in the event of an outage on any carrier’s network,” wrote Staffieri. On the surface that’s a very hedged and non-committal statement but, then again, these things are presumably complicated to set up and ‘meaningful’ must be a step in the right direction, right?

“Second, Rogers will set a higher standard for reliability by physically separating our wireless and internet services to create an ‘always on’ network – to help make sure our customers don’t experience an outage with both cellular and internet services again,” he continued.

In his grilling by parliament Staffieri said the cause of the outage was “a result of a system failure following an update in our core network.” Presumably that’s always a risk when mucking about with the core and yet outages such as this are rare. Leaving aside apparent human error, Rogers is going to spend at least CA$250 million on ‘physically separating its wireless and internet networks’, to create an extra layer of redundancy.

On top of that there is a much more vague pledge to spend CA$10 billion over the next three years to ‘build out and strengthen’ the Rogers network. How much of that would have been spent anyway is unclear, but one tried and tested way for businesses to show contrition is throwing big sums of money around to show nothing is more important than making sure the bad thing never happens again.

You can watch Staffieri’s full parliamentary struggle session below if you’re feeling sadistic. To be fair, Rogers seems to be making all the right noises and if it delivers on its pledges such outages should be both less likely to happen and less severe if they do. Hopefully it will share the precise issues caused by the core network update with the rest of the telecoms world, to avoid a repeat of this specific accident.


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