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Rogers CEO Apologizes, Blames Network Failure on Maintenance

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(Bloomberg) -- Rogers Communications Inc.’s new chief executive officer apologized and offered both compensation and an explanation to customers after a prolonged network failure left millions in Canada without phone or internet service, knocked businesses offline and affected payment systems.

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Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the situation was “unacceptable” and that he had conveyed his frustration directly to Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri. Champagne’s department has the final call on whether to approve Rogers’ proposed C$20 billion ($15.5 billion) acquisition of rival Shaw Communications Inc.

Rogers said Saturday afternoon that services had been restored and its “network and systems are close to fully operational” after a systemwide wireless and Internet outage that began Friday morning.

In the first explanation of what happened, Staffieri said the company believes the network failed after a maintenance update in its core network, causing routers to malfunction early Friday morning.

“We know how much our customers rely on our networks and I sincerely apologize,” Staffieri said in a letter posted to the company’s website Saturday. Rogers is treating the fact “that some customers could not reach emergency services” as a priority, he said. The company didn’t give an estimate of financial impact, but did say customers would be credited.

The service failure had wide-ranging impacts beyond an inability to make calls or use the internet. Interac, a payment system used by financial institutions across Canada, was unable to process debit-card transactions, which hurt sales at retail stores. Banks said some of their services were knocked out. Major events were canceled. Even the country’s telecommunications regulator said its phones weren’t working properly on Friday.

Fans of Canadian singer The Weeknd were disappointed as a concert in Toronto to kick off his world tour was postponed. “Been at the venue all day but it’s out of our hands because of the Rogers outage,” the artist wrote on Twitter, adding he was “crushed and heartbroken.” The venue was the Rogers Centre stadium -- owned by the communications firm.

The long disruption heaps more pressure on Staffieri, who was named permanent CEO in January after an extraordinary public fight among members of the Rogers family over who should run the company.

Staffieri had been chief financial officer and was sacked by then-CEO Joe Natale last September for his part in plotting a palace coup to oust Natale.

One of Staffieri’s allies, Edward Rogers, then went to court to assert his right to control the board, over the objections of his mother and sisters. He won, the board fired Natale and brought Staffieri back to run the company -- with closing the Shaw deal as his top priority.

Shaw is one of the largest internet and cable providers in the Canada’s western provinces. The transaction was announced in March 2021, but has been held up by objections from Canada’s Competition Bureau.

(Updates with CEO statement on service restoration, cause of disruption starting in third paragraph.)

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