WHEN THE CONTACTS CAN ’ T GET THROUGH …
BY BRENDAN READ
When the network of a major communications carrier , one that provides landline , wireless , and internet goes down it is a major disaster .
When that happens the consequences are many , and debilitating . Depending on the scope they include , but are not limited to :
• Calls cannot be made , including to 911 , as well for customer service , support , and billing .
• Digital communications are not available over the internet .
• Transactions , like through ATMs and payment devices are stopped .
THE ROGERS OUTAGE
Yet such a disastrous event did occur in Canada , on July 8 , 2022 , when Rogers Communications ’ services went offline , reported CBC News
, apparently caused by a coding error during a major upgrade of the network ’ s core . ( Full disclosure : the author is a Rogers customer ).
The Rogers outage meant also that customers and its own IT staff using its network could not get through to find out what is going on and to fix or find workarounds to the problems .
Industry consultant and Contact Center Pipeline contributor Jon Arnold , who is also a Rogers customer , was about to travel to Florida on July 8 with four others , coordinating plans across four locations , when the outage occurred .
“ We had no way to communicate with each other , but somehow , we managed to all synch up , and our flights went to plan ,” says Jon . “ No thanks to Rogers .”
Yet when he tried to pay for gas the attendant said they would accept only cash or credit – the Canadian Interac system was down due to the outage . So he paid by credit card .
Since Jon and the others couldn ’ t use their phones or the Internet , radio was the only reliable source of real time information , so that was a big help .
Even when he and his party arrived in Florida the troubles persisted . They could not use their phones that day as they were unable to connect to a U . S . cellular network for roaming . But once service was restored in Canada , they did get their phones working finally .
“ This mess was another example of how dependent we ’ ve all become on our mobile devices – maybe too much !” says Jon . In response , in a July 24 public letter
Rogers Communications President and CEO Tony Staffieri said that his company has “ made meaningful progress on a formal agreement between carriers to switch 911 calls to each other ’ s networks automatically – even in the event of an outage on any carrier ’ s network .
Rogers will “ set a higher standard for reliability by physically separating our wireless and internet services to create an ‘ always on ’ network – to help make sure our customers don ’ t experience an outage with both cellular and internet services again .”
The CEO also promised to focus on reliability by investing CAD 10 billion over the next three years such as in more oversight , testing , and greater use of artificial intelligence ( AI ).
“ Finally , we are partnering with leading technology firms to do a full review of our network to help us learn from the outage ,” said Staffieri . “ We will share lessons with our industry for the benefit of every Canadian .”
John H . Boyd , The Boyd Company , which has located contact centers in Canada and has performed site selection for Rogers ’ media operations , describes the outage as “ beyond the pale and reminiscent of another outage , the famous 1977 blackout of New York City and the 25 hours of chaos that ensued .
“ If there is one key takeaway from the Rogers outage is the need for more competition in Canada ’ s telecommunications sector where just three companies - Rogers , Bell , and Telus - control some 90 % of the market ,” says Boyd .
“ Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri ’ s mea culpa did not address this structural vulnerability – for obvious reasons - but he did convey a plan to address the outage problems , chief among them the commingling of both wireless and internet services and 911 calls going to a dead end .”
WE WILL SHARE LESSONS WITH OUR INDUSTRY FOR THE BENEFIT OF EVERY CANADIAN .
---TONY STAFFIERI , ROGERS COMMUNICATIONS
NEED FOR NEW CANADIAN 911 NETWORK
Jon points out the Rogers outage amplifies the need for a public or neutral cellular network that isn ’ t dependent on a private operator .
The U . S . has that , and it ’ s been discussed in Canada for years , but it hasn ’ t happened . Yet having such a network has bigtime implications for 911 and all forms of emergency services .
“ Just the fact that a public cell network would ensure that emergency services have full uptime , and aren ’ t dependent on private operators ,” says Jon . “ They face limited consequences for outages that support subscriber services , but emergency services / public safety have greater implications .”
Jon reports that the Canadian government has been taking in large sums through auctioning off chunks of the radio spectrum every few years .
“ Surely there ’ s enough money there that by now the federal government could have built that parallel network to ensure full uptime for essential services ?” says Jon .
Brendan Read is Editor of Contact Center Pipeline . He has been covering and working in customer service and sales and for contact center companies for most of his career . Brendan has edited and written for leading industry publications and has been an industry analyst . He also has authored and co-authored books on contact center design , customer support , and working from home . Brendan can be reached at brendan @ contactcenterpipeline . com
10 CONTACT CENTER PIPELINE