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Canada telecom execs summoned after service outage

TORONTO (AP) – The Federal Industry Minister said on Sunday he is summoning telecom executives following an outage at Rogers Communications Inc that disrupted mobile and Internet services across Canada, hampering several crucial services.

In a statement, Francois-Philippe Champagne said he would meet with Rogers Chief Executive Officer Tony Staffieri and other telecom leaders to discuss improving “the reliability of networks across Canada”. He called the failure “unacceptable”.

The widespread disruption, which began on Friday morning and lasted at least 15 hours, paralysed communications across sectors including health care, law enforcement and the financial industry. Many 911 services couldn’t receive incoming calls, several hospitals reported services affected, and debit card transactions were paused.

Staffieri released a statement on Saturday apologising for the outage. “We know how much our customers rely on our networks and I sincerely apologise,” he said. “We’re particularly troubled that some customers could not reach emergency services and we are addressing the issue as an urgent priority.”

Staffieri said services had been restored and were close to fully operational.

People use electronics outside a coffee shop in Toronto, amid a nationwide Rogers outage. PHOTO: AP

“We now believe we’ve narrowed the cause to a network system failure following a maintenance update in our core network, which caused some of our routers to malfunction early on Friday morning,” Staffieri said.

Many customers continued reporting service disruptions into Sunday.

Rogers issued a statement on Sunday saying it was aware that some customers were continuing to experience “intermittent challenges with their services”.

Professor of governance, law and ethics at Toronto’s York University Richard Leblanc said the outage showed how vulnerable Canadian industry, financial institutions and healthcare systems are to an attack on a telecom provider.

“This could have been catastrophic for the country if this was a threat actor,” he said in a telephone interview.

It was the second significant outage for Rogers in 15 months.

According to Netblocks, a British-based organisation that monitors cybersecurity, the outage knocked out around 25 per cent of Canada’s observable Internet connectivity at its peak.