Canadians woke up Friday morning to a widespread network outage at Rogers Communications Inc. that left many customers without mobile and internet service and caused trouble for 911 services, debit transactions and even Service Canada's beleaguered passport offices.
A notice on the Toronto-based telecommunications company's website said the outage was impacting both its wireless and home service customers and is also affecting phone and chat support.
The company offered no explanation for the outage, its expected length and how many customers were impacted or their whereabouts.
"Our technical teams are working to restore our services alongside our global technology partners, and are making progress," Rogers said in a statement.
"We know how much you rely on our networks. Today we have let you down. We are working to make this right as quickly as we can. We will continue to keep you updated, including when services will be back online."
For the bulk of Friday morning and into the afternoon, businesses and organizations notified customers that their operations were being impacted by Rogers and delays and service interruptions should be expected.
Many retailers and businesses were also facing trouble when trying to accept payments because Interac, which processes electronic financial transactions, said its online and checkout debit offerings and e-transfer services were impacted.
Among the most serious impacts of the outage were warnings from police in Toronto and Ottawa, who reported connection problems when Canadians called 911.
"If your call fails, please try again, or call from a landline or cellphone with another provider," Ottawa Police said on Twitter.
The Thunder Bay Police Service even created a temporary 911 email address for residents without landlines who have internet access.
Federal Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement that the government is monitoring the situation closely and has been in contact with Rogers.
"We expressed how important it is that this matter be resolved as soon as possible and for the company to provide prompt and clear communication directly to those impacted."
He said the government will use any tools at it disposal to ensure Canadians stay connected and the company meets the high standards Canadians deserve, but did not specify what those tools might be.
Evan Koronewski, a spokesman for the Communications Security Establishment, said the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security has also offered assistance to Rogers.
Meanwhile, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre called on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to launch an inquiry under the Telecommunications Act into the outage. The CRTC confirmed it received the request and is reviewing it.
The call came after Rogers customers scrambled to find internet service, with many heading to coffee shops to connect and trade tales of the outage.
Kathryn Bowen, an independent fashion designer and Rogers phone and internet customer, spent Friday morning on the floor of a Starbucks in Toronto’s financial district, video conferencing clients including a sales agent from Paris.
The 30-year-old headed out to find a café with internet service as soon as she realized she couldn’t work at home. Many apps on her phone were also affected.
“I don’t really know where to go because if I go home, I don’t have internet,” said Bowen. “I can’t even step outside and text anyone because Rogers doesn’t work on my phone either, so I’m just sitting here until my phone dies basically.”
Roseanna Chen, 27, relied on a coffee shop as well, after her workplace's internet was impacted by the outage, but found the café's wireless network became unstable as it filled with people.
“We’re trying to see if (the office Wi-Fi) comes back,” said Chen, an accounting associate at Imperial PFS Canada. “If it doesn’t, we’ll probably try and head back home, but my internet at home is also out.”
Telus wasn't impacted by the outage, but the Rogers rival warned that some customers may experience "slower than normal" data speeds because of increased usage by customers without access to home internet.
Scarborough Health Network, which operates three hospitals and eight satellite sites in Toronto, requested physicians and staff to head to their workplaces for any shifts that they are scheduled to be on-call for until the disruption is resolved.
In Quebec, Peter Nygard's Montreal court appearance on sex-related charges was put off because the fashion mogul, who is detained in a Toronto jail, couldn't connect by video conference. His bail hearing will now take place next week.
Service Canada tweeted it too was wrapped up in the outage with call centres and offices, including ones that issue passports, affected. The outage stands to exacerbate passport delays that have left Canadians lined up outside Service Canada offices for lengthy periods of time as the government works through a backlog.
Adding to the headache was a warning from the Canada Border Services Agency that people may not be able to complete submissions through the ArriveCAN app — a mandatory requirement for all cross-border travellers.
Downdetector, a website that tracks outages, showed people started reporting problems with Rogers' service around 4:30 a.m. EDT and by 7 a.m. 20,000 reports had been logged.
Customers in Toronto, Kitchener, Moncton, Ottawa and Mississauga logged the most reports on the website with 45 per cent saying they were experiencing a total blackout, 29 per cent seeing issues with mobile internet and 26 per cent facing landline internet problems.
Downdetector also showed spikes in outage reports for independent service providers like TekSavvy, who often piggyback onto Rogers' network.
TekSavvy said in a tweet that it was being impacted by the outage and having trouble with contact centre phone lines, but had no estimate for when there could be a resolution.
— With files from Jessica Smith in Toronto and Marie Woolf in Ottawa