By Vivian Collings
A recent national connectivity outage is making local organizations and businesses think about the what-ifs around a repeat situation.
With service provider Rogers experiencing an outage on July 8 across the country, there were millions of Canadian residents and businesses left unable to complete purchases with debit cards and E-transfers, access the internet, complete phone calls and send texts.
In a public message from Rogers president and CEO Tony Staffieri, it was stated that the cause of the outage was “a network system failure following a maintenance update in our core network, which caused some of our routers to malfunction early Friday morning. We disconnected the specific equipment and redirected traffic, which allowed our network and services to come back online over time as we managed traffic volumes returning to normal levels.”
For many, the Rogers networks took far too long to return to normal, with some facing an entire work day without access to essential internet and phone services.
Rogers sent out a media statement on Saturday, July 9 at 7 a.m. that said they had restored services for “the vast majority” of customers.
The impact of the outage in the Haliburton Highlands ranged from minor inconveniences to entire companies having to set back work for days.
Those most affected in the Haliburton Highlands were retailers experiencing failed debit functions with their machines, companies that use Rogers for their phone and internet systems, and people that work from home.
Office administrator at the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce Kirstley Dams said, “I think the overall opinion is frustration [from] clients or customers who only had debit available, and there would have potentially been lost sales or chaos at checkouts with people needing to abandon orders to get to ATMs. The other thing is that a lot of businesses would have incurred more charges during the outage since a lot of credit cards were still going through, but most payment processors have a higher charge to the business of credit card purchases than debit card purchases.”
One of the more fortunate businesses during the outage was Foodland in Haliburton.
Manager Brad Park said that the Rogers outage affected their debit card functions like many other places, but they were busier that Friday than the previous year, so the outage brought in more shoppers than usual.
For the Haliburton County Development Corporation, using NFTC as an internet provider meant that both their office and Business Incubator space remained online.
“It was great for our clients who needed the internet that day, but town was definitely a flurry of commotion,” said HCDC Business Incubator coordinator Kat Schouten.
Owner of Century 21 Granite Realty Group Inc. Brandon Nimigon said that their brokerage uses Bell as an internet provider, so the company office was not affected.
“A few of our agents who use Rogers were greatly affected from having no phones or access to anything such as booked showings, accessing lockboxes, and emails,” he said.
Andrea Hagarty from Bonnie View Inn said although the resort faced a few setbacks, the issues were manageable.
“The shortage did not impact us majorly, other than maybe a few people didn’t come in because they thought it might. Most people with debit have credit cards or cash. A couple of people couldn’t call to say they would be late checking in.”
Other individuals and businesses faced far more challenging situations caused by the outage.
Unfortunately, the first day of CanoeFM’s annual Radiothon fundraiser was on Friday, July 8.
The station’s manager Roxanne Casey said, “The Radiothon started out very slow due to all the issues that Rogers presented us with. People were unable to call in, and we couldn’t process payments, which was all a bit of a challenge. Our Friday totals were down substantially from other years. We had intended to have pop-up auction items aired all day Friday, but decided against using them as there just weren’t the people with access to phones, so we noticed the bidding was way down.”
The problems were resolved by Saturday and Sunday, so CanoeFM was able to make up for lost time and raise close to $39,000 over the weekend.
Taylor Vince, who works from home for IT World Canada, a video production company, as a digital content creator experienced lost work days.
“That was quite the headache for everybody. We had to cancel four video interviews that were scheduled to be recorded over Zoom on Friday. Having to delay the recordings meant that the schedule for our entire creative services team of eight people was set back about two days,” she said.
Many trades workers were negatively affected by the Rogers outage in more than one way and seek new solutions to help avoid similar circumstances in the future.
Operations manager at Kegel Heating and Cooling Kyla Sisson said the company lost access to both their internet and phones during the Rogers outage.
“With the internet out it means our computer and phone systems don’t work. We have a VoIP phone system that requires the internet to function, which is really unfortunate because our customers couldn’t contact us, and we couldn’t contact them. This would be a terrible situation to have during the heating season as we deal with many no-heat calls that are emergency situations that we have to take care of as soon as possible. Without the internet, we would have no way to receive those calls and dispatch a technician. We have a generator installed at our office to deal with power outages, but there isn’t much we can do to prepare for internet services.”
Although Rogers is automatically crediting Canadian customers with the equivalent of five days of service on their August bill, Kegel Heating and Cooling is in pursuit of more stability.
Sisson said that company will be switching from Rogers to Starlink for their internet services as soon as they become available.
Starlink internet is much faster than internet that uses a fibre-optic cable because it uses many satellites that are 60 times closer to Earth than singular geostationary satellites which are used by most internet providers use. This means that it takes less time for data to travel from the user to the Starlink satellite and back.
“Starlink internet works by sending information through the vacuum of space. Starlink is a constellation of multiple satellites that orbit the planet much closer to Earth to cover the entire globe,” said the Starlink website.
Sisson said that Kegel Heating and Cooling is on the waitlist for Starlink Business which will be available in Haliburton County in 2023.
Discovery Dream Homes design and consulting associate Kirk Figueira said he wasn’t able to get in contact with sub-traders that were scheduled to deliver materials on the same day.
“The issue is that everybody’s dropping landlines to save money. That solid phone line that used to connect a person’s phone to other people’s phones has been exchanged for electronic smart devices that become useless when not connected to a network,” he said.
Figueira has been a Rogers customer since 1995 and is deciding to continue to use its services.
“This is the first of this kind of issue I have ever witnessed,” he said. “I believe this is only a sign of things to come as we become more dependent on this sort of technological infrastructure.”
Rogers has outlined an action plan to attempt to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Staffieri said in his statement, “We will take every step necessary, and continue to make significant investments in our networks to strengthen our technology systems, increase network stability for our customers, and enhance our testing.”