MPs to grill witnesses from Rogers and CRTC over sweeping service outage

The House of Commons industry committee voted Friday to summon Rogers executives to Ottawa for a study on the company’s massive service outage, capping a week of formal demands for answers over what went wrong.

Consumers, small businesses and public authorities continue to call for accountability from the company, which has apologized for the wireless and internet outage that began the morning of July 8, and said it will give customers credits equivalent to five days of service charges.

MPs on the standing parliamentary industry committee, which includes representation from all parties, unanimously approved a motion Friday to hold at least two meetings on the outage by the end of the month.

They plan to call witnesses from Rogers and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as well as Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

Earlier in the week, Champagne met virtually with the CEOs of the country’s biggest telecoms and said he demanded they strike formal agreements to work together on issues of network resiliency.

He said he told them to come up with clear plans on how to communicate about outages after Rogers left many frustrated with a lack of prompt information on the disruption, which also knocked out Interac payment services and left customers unable to reach 911.

Champagne said the CRTC would conduct a formal inquiry into the outage and on Tuesday, the regulator sent Rogers dozens of questions and a July 22 deadline to respond.

The CRTC has said additional steps could follow, but some have said the process so far does not go far enough.

“We don’t know to what extent that information is going to be public and how much is going to be redacted,” said Tahira Dawood, a staff lawyer at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which made a formal request for a CRTC inquiry on the day the outage began.

Byron Holland, CEO of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, an internet advocacy group, called the nationwide Rogers outage “a wake-up call for Canada.”

Holland said in a statement Friday that the CRTC’s letter is a good first step, but that “a full and frank public hearing” should be held to “ensure Canadians’ trust in the internet is restored.”

On top of public probes, Rogers is also facing the threat of legal action, including at least one class action filed in Quebec that is claiming up to $400 in compensation per customer. Advocates for small businesses are also calling for the company to offer one month’s service as a credit.

Rogers spokesperson Chloe Luciani-Girouard said Friday that the company is committed to working with the government and regulators to “improve network resilience for all Canadians.”

She said Rogers would work with the industry committee to “provide details on the cause of the outage and the actions we are taking to enhance the reliability of each of our networks moving forward, including through formal mutual support agreements.”

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