A PYMNTS Company

Rogers Outage Revealed Urgent Need for Better Regulatory Cooperation

 |  July 21, 2022

By: Roger Fay (Center for International Governance Innovation)

The Rogers shutdown was a shocking surprise, from so many angles. Millions of people woke up to find themselves cut off from cell and internet service; the outage affected their work, commerce, and leisure. Essential services were cut off, too, revealing a worrying lack of resilience.   

How could a mere maintenance upgrade bring down a system for hours? Obviously, Rogers bears much responsibility for the failure. But there are larger policy and regulatory issues at play. Simply put, we do not have the right governance in place to deal with the interconnected issues this fiasco has painfully raised. 

Why was there no agreement in place for telcos to work together in case of outages? (One is being cobbled together now, after the fact.) Even if such an agreement would not have mitigated the impact of this particular failure, it seems a common-sense arrangement to have had in place, as is the case in the United States. And what about Interac, a payments system designated as systemically important, which seems to have relied heavily on Rogers with no backup in place? How was this missed?

It appears that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was not aware of either the broader systemic issues or their implications. And perhaps that is because some of these issues don’t necessarily fall under its mandate. 

In fact, this episode has forcefully revealed the number of interconnected regulatory and policy areas where coordination and collaboration are needed but not now in place. These include financial systems, telecommunications infrastructure, competition and consumer protection, public safety — and, likely, even national security. 

Presumably, millions of Canadians are now re-examining the resilience of their own personal digital infrastructure and subscriptions and considering whether having all their eggs in one basket, notwithstanding the poor range of available options, is appropriate…