Telecom providers strike formal mutual aid agreement

Canada’s telecom service providers have struck a formal agreement committing to provide support and assistance should another provider be faced with a major network outage.

The agreement comes following a July 11 meeting called by Federal Innovation, Science & Industry Min. François-Philippe Champagne in the wake of Rogers’ massive network disruption in the preceding days.

“As of September 9th, should one of these providers be faced with a major network outage, the other companies have committed to provide the support and assistance necessary so that Canadians can reach loved ones, access 911, and conduct business transactions,” Champagne said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“As part of this agreement, the companies also commit to providing clear and timely communications to keep Canadians and appropriate authorities informed about response and restoration during major network outages.”

With some emergency services and small businesses impacted by the July 8 outage for more than 15 hours, Champagne had directed service providers to take immediate action to improve network reliability, setting a timeline of 60 days to enter into a formal agreement that would guarantee emergency roaming, mutual assistance, and a communications protocol for advising the public and government during major outages and other emergencies.

“The Rogers outage of July 8 was unacceptable, and we must do everything possible to ensure something similar does not happen again in the future,” said Champagne, adding that the formal agreement is just a “first step.” A “telecommunications resiliency agenda” will be built around three pillars: robust networks and systems; coordinated planning and preparedness; and strengthening accountability.

Champagne has directed the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (CSTAC) to come up with further measures within six months to ensure network reliability, in addition to the CRTC’s ongoing investigation of the Rogers’ outage and a departmental review of regulatory measures.

Champagne is also collaborating with Bill Blair, Min. of Emergency Preparedness, to support the advancement of a Public Safety Broadband Network.

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