Widespread Rogers outage affects 911 calls, passport offices

“We are aware of issues currently affecting our networks and our teams are fully engaged to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

Author of the article:

Canadian Press

Publishing date:

Jul 08, 2022  •  1 hour ago  •  5 minute read  •  68 Comments

General view of the Rogers Building, quarters of Rogers Communications, in Toronto, Oct. 22, 2021.
General view of the Rogers Building, quarters of Rogers Communications, in Toronto, Oct. 22, 2021. Photo by Carlos Osorio / File /REUTERS

A widespread network outage from Rogers Communications Inc. has left many customers without mobile and internet service Friday morning and is causing problems forpolice, courthouses, Service Canada passport offices and Interac.

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A notice on the Toronto-based telecommunications company’s website said the outage is impacting both its wireless and home service customers and is also affecting phone and chat support.

“Our technical teams are working hard to restore services as quickly as possible,” said Rogers spokesperson Zac Carreiro, in an email.

“On behalf of all of us at Rogers, we sincerely apologize to our customers, and we will continue to keep you updated as we have more information to share, including when we expect service to be back up. Thank you for your patience as we work to resolve this issue.”

Asked what caused the outage, how many customers were impacted and where, Rogers spokesperson Chloe Luciani referred The Canadian Press back to a tweet promising more updates and saying, “We know how important it is for our customers to stay connected.”

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The outage disrupted services across retailers, courthouses, airlines, train networks, credit card processors and police forces, pushing many to delay business transactions, serve customers through analog means or even flock to coffee shops where they could find Wi-Fi.

Some Metrolinx customers are unable to purchase e-tickets, load their Presto cards or purchase fares if using debit or credit cards, the transportation agency says.

Metrolinx spokesperson Matt Llewellyn said the widespread outage has not taken out the Presto card system and all readers as well as the broader Presto network are still functioning.

Fare inspectors are aware of this national network outage and the impact on a small percentage of customers, he said.

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“However, customers can still use cash to load their Presto cards in person,” Llewellyn said in an email Friday. “Cash is also being accepted at stations to buy a GO Transit or UP Express fare. Previously purchased E-tickets can also be activated at stations using the free Wifi – that has so far been unaffected this morning.”

The Metrolinx Customer Contact Centre and 24-hour-a-day Transit Safety dispatch line, which is used to report safety-related incidents, are fully functional, he said.

A TTC spokesperson said the only issue for the transit service related to the outage is loading Presto cards – a fare system which is operated by Metrolinx.

Among the most serious impacts were warnings from police in Toronto and Ottawa, who reported connection problems when Canadians called 911.

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“If your call fails, please try again, or call from a landline or cellphone with another provider,” Ottawa Police said on Twitter.

Scarborough Health Network, which operates three hospitals and eight satellite sites in Toronto, requested physicians and staff to head to their workplaces for any shifts that they are scheduled to be on-call for until the disruption is resolved.

The City of Toronto announced wide-ranging service interruptions from the outage.

Even some wading pools were not allowed to open as an operating cellphone was required on site.

The city reported problems with point-of-service card payments and some debit and credit payments at city facilities, including golf courses, recreation centres, ferry docks and civic centres.

The city’s forestry service was seeing longer response times.

In Quebec, some court matters, were hampered. Peter Nygard’s Montreal court appearance on sex-related charges was put off because the fashion mogul, who is detained in a Toronto jail, couldn’t connect by video conference. His bail hearing will now take place next week.

Service Canada tweeted it too was wrapped up in the outage with call centres and offices, including ones that issue passports, affected.

The outage stands to exacerbate passport delays that have left Canadians lined up outside Service Canada offices for lengthy periods of time as the government works through a backlog.

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Since nobody in Canada can see this tweet today, ketchup belongs on steak.

— Heinz Ketchup Canada (@heinz_ca) July 8, 2022

Many retailers and businesses were also facing trouble when trying to accept payments because Interac, which processes electronic financial transactions, said it’s online and checkout debit offerings and e-transfer services were impacted.

As a result, the Confederation Bridge in P.E.I. was unable to accept debit Friday morning and Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, Ont. said amusement park goers could only pay with credit card. They were told on Facebook they must be able to access e-tickets on their phone or bring printed tickets to the park, if visiting Friday.

The outage even pushed some broadcasters, like CBC Radio in Kitchener and Waterloo, to have to switch up their programming.

“The Morning Edition listeners will be hearing Metro Morning today. We will be back with you as soon as possible,” CBC said.

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Downdetector, a website that tracks outages, showed people started reporting problems with Rogers’ service around 4:30 a.m. EDT and by 7 a.m. 20,000 reports had been logged.

Customers in Toronto, Kitchener, Moncton, Ottawa and Mississauga logged the most reports on the website with 45 per cent saying they were experiencing a total blackout, 29 per cent seeing issues with mobile internet and 26 per cent facing landline internet problems.

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Downdetector also showed spikes in outage reports for independent service providers like TekSavvy, who often piggyback onto Rogers’ network.

TekSavvy said in a tweet that it was being impacted by the outage and having trouble with contact centre phone lines, but had no estimate for when there could be a resolution.

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“The outage is illuminating the general lack of competition in telecommunications in Canada,” said Vass Bednar, executive director of McMaster University’s master of public policy program.

The country’s telecom sector is dominated by three large carriers — Rogers, BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. — and their hold on the industry has long been a concern of academics, who have called for regulators to increase competition for mobile and internet services in Canada.

The Competition Bureau is currently fighting Rogers’ plans to purchase Shaw Communications Inc. for $26 billion despite the planned sale of its Freedom Mobile business to Quebecor Inc. because the regulator feels the deal would only bolster Rogers’ monopoly and not create a viable fourth carrier.

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When everything from 911 services to GO Transit is impacted by a Rogers outage, the reach of telecommunications companies is very obvious, Bednar said.

“But unless we’re going to see people switching their providers today or new publicly run options suddenly springing up there’s not much more that we can do right now other than perhaps factor in people’s anger and frustration, as the pending Rogers-Shaw deal is considered.”

She added that people should be compensated for the disruption.

“It’s a huge expense to Rogers, but even a modest decrease on people’s bills would acknowledge some kind of deficit.”

— With files from Antonella Artuso

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