Rogers Outage a Wake-Up Call for Canadians

This past Friday, millions of Canadians suddenly found themselves without access to phone and internet service.
Such a thing may seem of minimal impact to some. So what if a person can’t go on social media—a blessing for us all—or watch Netflix? That is, until one considers what such an outage actually means. For some Canadians, it posed serious jeopardy.
911 service was affected.
What happens when you’re a housebound senior and you call for an ambulance but can’t get through?
What do you do if there is a fire? Or a crime in progress? You are in danger; you pick up the phone—your one lifeline for help—and it’s not working?
That’s not fearmongering: 911 service is often a matter of life and death.
For others, their banking was affected. Many people no longer carry or keep reserves of cash. What do you do when you need to buy gas or groceries or medicine and, suddenly, the one card in your wallet you rely on is reduced to a useless piece of plastic? You go to the bank and the ATMs are down and the teller can’t give you cash because they can’t pull up your account because it’s all done via the internet. For exactly these types of scenarios, it’s always a good idea to have a backstop of a moderate amount of cash on hand.
Government offices ceased to function, adding to the already unacceptable confusion, backlogs, and delays that seem to define today’s public service sector under the Trudeau Government’s incompetent leadership.
For others, even their homes ceased to function as a growing number of Canadians have invested in so-called “smart” home devices where lights, locks, smoke detectors, security systems, heating, and air conditioning all require an internet connection to function.
While, thankfully, not common, Canadians are particularly susceptible to these sorts of incidents. Due to a lack of competition—in fact, a movement towards monopolies in our communications sector—we have a scenario where huge swaths of the population in particular regions of the country are all reliant on the same provider. This problem will only be exacerbated if Rogers is successful in their attempt to receive regulatory approval from the CRTC and Federal Government to buy out SHAW.
What exactly happened is still unclear. Rogers says the outage was a “network system failure” due to a “maintenance update”—hardly an illuminating answer.
The office of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says this was not the result of a cyberattack but given his (and his government’s) track record, he will have to forgive Canadians for being skeptical.
If it was a technical glitch, Rogers must be held accountable to ensure every step is taken to prevent it from happening again. If it was the result of foreign hacking—not unprecedented in Canada and certainly within the realm of possibility—we have a much larger problem.
True, Friday’s incident has been rectified but considering what could have been, this was merely a drop in the bucket.
If we do not have the necessary fail-safes in place to avoid what happened last week, we are certainly not prepared for a more serious scenario.
Internet and cell service are critical infrastructures. Perhaps too critical. If we are to continue down this road, we must ensure that we have necessary backups in place to protect vital information and function as a country.
On a more personal level, in the internet age, we have become so reliant on our technology (often even a single device) that when something like this happens it rocks our world.
It’s a wake-up call—at least it should be.