EDITORIAL: Rogers blackout a teachable moment for many Canadians

Invaders from outer space touched down on earth early morning, setting up a signal blocker in the process and effectively shutting down all communication across the planet.

At least that’s what it felt like about 25 per cent of Canadians who lost all internet connection during Rogers Communications’ major service outage July 8 which lasted about 24 hours for most customers.

The aforementioned alien attack was completely made up, but in the moment it probably seemed just as plausible to anyone experiencing the outage. With no online ability to fact check, they’d simply have to take our word for it. The impact of the cross-county outage was ride ranging, causing inconveniences that spanned from mild to pretty major.

With an ever-growing number of people working from home, the loss of internet can mean writing off the entire workday. Maybe an impromptu long weekend wasn’t the worst thing in the world for some people. There was probably more than a few employees on other networks who heard about the outage, looked outside to see it was a sunny day and decided they’d tell a white lie and told their employers they too were Rogers customers.

There were however some rather major impacts-such as an inability for a large number of people to contact 9-1-1. Businesses were without interact which no doubt accounted for some major revenue loss in a time when fewer people than ever are carrying cash.

As the hours ticked by on Friday, rumours began to swirl as to just how long the outage would last-some mean-spirited practical joker even went ahead and created a faux graphic that claimed to show Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri claimed the outage could last several weeks.

For parents home with bored kids on their first week of summer break, the internet outage may well have felt like it lasted a week. In all actuality, the vast majority of customers saw their signals returned late Friday or early Saturday morning.

As investigations are launched into just what the heck happened-early indications it was a system upgrade gone wrong and not in fact aliens-there’s still plenty of lessons to be learned. Rogers’ near monopoly on the communication industry across Canada has long been considered a problem before this ever happened. Canada’s one day communication blackout underscored just how precarious the national network can be when one screw up can effectively grind a quarter of the country to a halt.

Just imagine if a nefarious being had that kind of access.

While there may not be much the Average Joe can do about it-our elected leaders in Ottawa will squabble about who is to blame while the private business sector will continue to do as they please-there’s some warnings to be heeded.

Once the investigations are complete, lets hope the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission can recall page and line precisely what transpired and stand stronger in the face of constant ISP and cell service monopolization efforts.

Meanwhile, being prepared for another potential outage (and another one will almost assuredly happen again despite reassurances from those in charge) is always a good idea. That includes families having a plan to meet somewhere in the event cellular communication is unavailable. Keeping some spare emergency cash handy in the event debit goes down is also a good habit. And as always, an emergency kit of the essentials is, well, essential. As July 8 showed, you never really can know what might happen. Being prepared for it can go along way towards weathering life’s unexpected curveballs.

-Adam Prudhomme is the Managing Editor of the Napanee Beaver

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Professional sandcastle builder Rod Watson of Kingston was one of several participants taking part in the Friends of Sandbanks 2022 Sandfest Wednesday. The sandcastle building competition returned to the provincial park after a two year absence. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)