The bright side of wireless service outages: Peter Nowak

A bit of peace and quiet can be nice

Investors are being cautious in the wake of Rogers' big LTE rollout (Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)

(Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)

I’ve never really cared for service outage stories, such as the big one that hit Rogers’s wireless network on Wednesday. The fact is, even the most solid and seemingly foolproof systems break down every once in a while. It happens to telecom companies, it happens to Google, it happens to Netflix, it happens to BlackBerry, it happens to everyone. It’s only if the resultant outage is prolonged, or if it happens frequently, that it should be grounds for concern.

I was as inconvenienced as anyone else was during this latest outage. I was trying to make plans to pick up a teammate for our Wednesday night volleyball game and was having a heck of a time trying to get in touch. I’m not on Rogers but she is; our calls weren’t going through and texts were slow to make it, if they did at all. To make matters worse, the highways around Toronto were jammed (as usual) with accidents. It was a sort of perfect storm cluster%#$@, as the curse words flying in my car attested to.

And then I took a deep breath. I asked myself, what was the worst that could happen? The answer: my teammate wouldn’t make it to the game, at which point we would have to recruit someone from another team to fill in. Well now, that wouldn’t have been the end of the world, would it?

There were doubtlessly many people who had significantly more important situations – perhaps even life-threatening – complicated because of the outage, but I suspect that for the vast majority it was a minor inconvenience at best. A lot of complainers, some of whom harassed a poor guy in New York who just happens to have the Twitter handle @Rogers, were just expressing their sense of entitlement without even knowing it.

For some reason, we have this expectation that everything needs to work whenever we want it to, and if it doesn’t we lose our minds. Sure, Rogers and other telecom companies often do much to deserve the wrath of their customers, so it’s understandable that some people fly off the handle easily when it comes to this stuff.

But realistically speaking, there are so many ways to communicate these days that it’s not hard at all to get in touch with someone if there’s something truly important at stake: email, text message, cellphone call, landline call, Facebook message, Twitter message, Skype – heck, maybe even a payphone. Many of those options don’t depend on wireless services at all, and vice versa. If everything goes down at once, well then telecom woes might be the least of our concerns – it could very well mean we’ve been hit with an electromagnetic pulse ahead of an invasion by North Korea.

And having said that, if a particular communication isn’t that important, maybe we should look at the outage as a blessing in disguise. After all, how often do we get any peace and quiet these days?