Tag Archives: Bell

The history of technology and telecommunications is also a history of Cape Breton


Cape Breton is known for many things, including a great deal of history. One part of that history that I wish were played up more is the part it played in telecommunications at the beginning of the 20th century. I thought of that when I read about how a Cape Breton town (North Sydney) knew about the end of WW I before the rest of North America. It knew about it because of the Western Union offices there. It was a leader at the time. Sadly that Western Union building in North Sydney was torn down.

While that place is lost, there are still other sites on the Island that recognize that history of technology. There is the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck that is worth visiting. And while it is small, The Marconi Museum in Glace Bay is also good. There are some fine museums in Cape Breton: if you are going there to there to see that sort of thing, make sure you include those two.

Cape Breton had a significant role to play in the history of world telecommunications. That role should get recognized and more museums should be made to promote that era, in my opinion.

For more on North Sydney, see:   wikipedia North Sydney Nova Scotia.

(The image above is the Marconi National Historic Site of Canada in Glace Bay, linked to at goCapeBreton.com)

On the recent Rogers outage, some modest thoughts

With regards to the recent Rogers outage, I have to say I have great sympathy for the IT staff who had to deal with it, and unlike many, I don’t have any great solution to it. I have even greater sympathy for the millions of users like myself who were taken offline that day.

In the short term, the mandate given by Minister Champagne for the telcos to produce clear resiliency plan in 60 days is a good start. At a minimum, certain services like 911 should never be allowed to fail for anyone. As for other services, that is up to the telcos to make proposals. Perhaps failproof low bandwidth services like telephony could be taken up as well. We will see. As always, there will be cost/benefit tradeoffs.

Some people were saying that the problem is with concentration of services with only a few providers. In fact there are other provides besides Bell and Rogers, as BlogTO pointed out. I use one of them: Teksavvy. Despite good price points and good service, they hold only a small fraction of the market. If people want to vote for more diversity, they can do it with their dollars. I suspect they won’t.

In the end, people want low cost, easy of use, simple telco services. Rogers and Bell offer that. That said, I would advise people at a minimum to have their phone service and their internet service on two different providers. Heck if it is really important, get a landline. But at a minimum, split your cell phone service and your internet service. If your cell phone provider goes down, you can still contact people using the internet. You can even get a service like Fongo that will let you make phone calls. And if your Internet service goes down, you can use your phone as a hotspot to access the Internet. Will it cost more? Of course. Higher availability always costs more.

We are going to have these outages every few years, I suspect. Most companies, the telcos included, have a few big and complex network devices at the heart of their network. Those devices depend on specific software to run, and sometimes upgrading that software will fail. When it does, it may cause these outages. Just like it did to these companies in 2018.

Telecommunications is different than other utilities. In order to offer new services regularly (e.g. 5G, high speed Internet), they need to continually upgrade their technology. Electricity, water, and gas are all commodities: telecommunication services are not. The need telcos have to make improvements will always put them and us at risk.

This is not to absolve them: I think Rogers and the other telcos need to follow up on this outage with better plans to be more reliable, and the Government needs to oversee this both from a technology and regulatory viewpoint. This in the end will benefit everyone, in my humble opinion.

(All opinions expressed here are mine, not my employers. I have no inside knowledge of the services or technology provided by Rogers, other than what I read in the media, like everyone else. My opinions are based on working in IT networking since the early 1990s.)