Canadian Regulator Requires All Carriers to Begin Reporting Network Outages on Interim Basis; Initiates Rulemaking to Consider Permanent Network Outage Reporting Rules

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) initiated a proceeding through the linked Notice of Consultation that will impact all providers of telecommunications (including wireless and VoIP) services in Canada.  The goal of the proceeding is to develop rules to improve and enhance the resiliency and reliability of Canada’s telecom networks in the aftermath of numerous widespread outages.  The CRTC is seeking comments by March 24.  Importantly, effective March 8, 2023, the CRTC is also directing all service providers to notify the CRTC within two hours of when they become aware of an outage and file a comprehensive report with the CRTC within 14 days following the outage. 

The safety and security of Canadians is a top priority of the CRTC. In recent years, telecommunications carriers’ networks have experienced large-scale service outages affecting telephone, Internet access, and other telecommunications services, creating major disruptions in the lives of Canadians. For example, there were major service outages resulting from Tropical Storm Fiona in Atlantic Canada, a fiber cut in the Northwest Territories in June 2022, the derecho storm in Ontario and Quebec in May 2022, forest fires in Alberta and British Columbia in 2021, and Hurricane Dorian in Atlantic Canada in 2019, as well as the service outage experienced by Rogers Communications Canada Inc. in July 2022.

Pursuant to the Telecommunications Act (the Act), the CRTC has the powers to regulate the provision of telecommunications services by Canadian carriers and other telecommunications service providers (TSPs). The availability of resilient and robust telecommunications networks underpins the attainment of the Canadian telecommunications policy objectives set out in section 7 of the Act. Reliable telecommunications service of high quality that respond to the economic and social requirements of users can only be ensured when telecommunications networks are resilient and robust.

In the 9-1-1 context, the CRTC’s role is to exercise regulatory oversight over the telecommunications access provided by TSPs that enables Canadians to contact 9-1-1 call centers, also known as public safety answering points (PSAPs). This oversight includes determining national policies, standards, conditions of service, agreements with carriers, and eligibility to operate, and approval of tariffs for telecommunications services. The CRTC also establishes regulatory measures needed to ensure that public alerts are delivered during emergencies, including over wireless networks.

The CRTC considers that more must be done to improve the reliability and resiliency of telecommunications networks to ensure that all Canadians can count on their telecommunications services when they need them. As an initial step, the CRTC is imposing interim notification and reporting requirements on all Canadian carriers.  Wherefore, the CRTC has directed all Canadian carriers, on an interim basis, to provide the following information to the Commission, effective March 8, 2023:

  • Carriers must notify the Commission within two hours of when the carrier becomes aware of a “major service outage,” defined for the purposes of this interim measure, as any outage affecting (i) more than 100,000 subscribers or a material portion of the carrier’s subscribers for more than one hour, (ii) subscribers that are in a geographic area served only by the affected carrier, (iii) critical infrastructure, (iv) major transport facilities, or (v) a 9-1-1 network.
  • Carriers must provide to the Commission, within 14 days of the day the Commission was notified of a major service outage (as required by item a above), a comprehensive report detailing (i) the causes of the outage, (ii) the steps taken to resolve the outage, (iii) how emergency and accessibility services (including those tailored for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, or visually impaired persons) were specifically affected by the outage, and (iv) plans put in place to prevent similar outages in the future.

The CRTC is also seeking input from Canadians on the nature and scope of permanent notification and reporting requirements. As its next step, the CRTC will initiate a public proceeding to address network reliability and resiliency in broader terms, including issues relating to resiliency principles, emergency services (9-1-1), public alerting, consumer communication, the impact of outages on the accessibility of telecommunications services, consumer compensation, technical measures, and the imposition of administrative monetary penalties.

Should you have questions about the information in this advisory, please contact Ron Quirk at or the attorney assigned to your account with our firm.

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