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Canada’s Rogers network outage leaves millions without internet

A network outage at one of Canada’s telecom giants has shut down cellphone and internet services across the country for hours since Friday, affecting homes, businesses, ATMs and 911 emergency numbers.

Canadians flock to cafes for WiFi. Banks reported problems with payment systems and retailers put up “cash only” signs.

Netblocks, a monitoring group, said The outage at Rogers Communications began Friday morning, crippling a quarter of the country’s network connectivity. It said early Saturday that internet service would be “gradually restored.”

Canada’s tax agency lost phone service. The country’s largest airline, Air Canada, reported technical problems in call centers. Even the Canadian telecom regulator said his phone lines were affected.

In the city of Winnipeg police asked Rogers users who need to call 911 to find landlines or phones on another network in an emergency.

Rogers Communications said late Friday that it had made “significant progress” in restoring service but could not say when the networks would fully recover.

“Many of our wireless customers are starting to see a return of service,” the company’s president, Tony Staffieri, said in the statement. “I want to sincerely apologize for this service disruption and the impact it is having on people from coast to coast to coast.”

It was the second disruption at the provider in just over a year. Critics pointed to Friday’s outages as evidence that there should be more competition in Canada’s telecoms industry. With more than 11 million mobile subscribers, Rogers is one of three companies dominating the market in Canada.

Canada’s Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne called the situation “unacceptable”. said Overnight, he conveyed “the frustration of millions of Canadians” to Rogers’ CEO.

Amid the outage of government services, including the passport office, Conservative Party MP Michelle Rempel Garner said the recent outage shows potential “national vulnerability” due to limited competition.

Gordon Barton, who attended a music festival over the weekend, told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. he deposited some cash to spend with his card but can no longer use it.

“But maybe that’s not a bad thing,” he quipped. “I mean, I don’t think a cash-only system is the answer,” he added, “but it’s scary how quickly things can come down.”

Vancouver International Airport said Travelers could neither pay for groceries nor use ATMs in the terminals. A domestic airline in the north said Passengers could not be contacted with flight updates.

The disruption also prompted a Toronto health network to ask doctors who were on call Friday to “physically come to the hospital for the shift.”

Meanwhile, at a venue in the city, disappointed crowds lingered outside after a concert by The Weeknd was postponed due to the last-minute cancellation.

“I’m devastated and heartbroken,” the Canadian singer tweeted on Friday night. “Was at the venue all day but it’s out of our hands because of the Rogers failure.”