During the extended Rogers outage on Friday, I happened to drive past the two main buildings that form the company’s head office. There’s a permanent sign on the north building that reads “Rogers: Canada’s biggest and most reliable 5G network.” Well, as we all now know, that’s a bit of a nose-stretcher.
For the second time in two years, Rogers was down. Clients were still coming back aboard today after twenty-four hours without service. Phone calls, debit and credit payments, calls to 911, Interac transfers, text messages and emails were all affected. Who knew that Rogers commanded such heights? Or just how tenuous our grasp on technology really was?
For some of us, the disruption mattered little. Having to pay cash for items was not much of a problem. Nor was the inability to send or receive emails for a few hours. In fact, it all contributed to a quiet day of contemplation rather than constant look-ups or unnecessary reach-outs. For those who work from home, run a small business or count on collaborating with others, however, the outage was costly.
There was a time, when founder Ted Rogers ran the firm, that it was an entrepreneurial hub. Without Ted’s support, BlackBerry, for example, would never have reached the market dominance it did in 2000 with 50 percent of U.S. smartphone sales. Apple’s iPhone bested BlackBerry soon after, but that was caused by its own inability to respond, not any fault of Ted.
To be sure, Ted was not an easy man to work for. Executives who brought ideas for decisions could be told it was too soon. If they came back a month later, they might be told it was too late. A lengthy memo was too long. A one-pager was too short. Getting that grid right with Ted was always tricky.
But for all his foibles, Ted would never have put up with two outages in one year. If such failures had happened on his watch, heads would have rolled. He might even have ordered that sign be taken down until it was accurate again. As for the bid by Rogers to buy Shaw, Ottawa should turn thumbs down. Rogers can’t even manage what they’ve got.