Telecommunications Incident Notifications Guidelines

Table of Content


1.0 Overview

Telecommunications infrastructure is recognized as being critical to national security, emergency preparedness, public health and the economic well-being of Canadians. Telecommunications technological developments over the years have given the general public (including the corporate community) the ability to remain in contact with one another, manage finances, share information from anywhere in the world and at any time, and more.

Society is more reliant then ever on telecommunications infrastructure. Unavailability of telecommunications can result in adverse security, public safety (including response and recovery capabilities) and economic consequences. It is also recognized that service disruptions have the potential to impact a significant portion of the population, the extent of which is not always immediately known. As national critical infrastructure, telecommunications services are one of the leading sectors requiring priority restoration. When such significant outages occur, government has a responsibility to ascertain the impact on the security, safety and welfare of the public and to become involved, proactively if warranted.

The Department also has specific emergency management responsibilities related to its mandate under the Emergencies Act, the Emergency Management Act. As a result, the Department is required by law to have emergency management plans for Canadians to continue to receive telecommunications services throughout the country.

Part of this emergency planning involves establishing notification processes with telecommunications service providers in the event of service disruptions or failures. Based on its designated responsibility for telecommunications, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has historically worked cooperatively with the telecommunications industry to foster the continuity of telecommunications services in Canada.

This document was developed as an action item following the 2012 face-to-face meeting of the Canadian Telecommunications Emergency Preparedness Association (CTEPA). CTEPA is an voluntary association emergency planners representing wireline, wireless and satellite facility-based telecommunications companies in Canada. Additionally, the development of these guidelines was also based on recommendations of the Emergency Response Working Group co-chaired by CTEPA and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada as part of an overall Emergency Response work task identified by the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (CSTAC). These voluntary guidelines are intended for use by all Canadian telecommunications service providers and not solely for CTEPA members.


2.0 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) is the federal government lead on the telecommunications Emergency Support Function (ESF #2) under the Public Safety Canada's Federal Emergency Response Plan. In this role, ISED provides support to federal, provincial and territorial agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and industry in the area of telecommunications in preparation for or response to emergency events of national or regional significance.

In response to a major emergency event, ISED will activate its emergency telecommunications operations centre (ETOC) and employ appropriate procedures and resources to respond to and mitigate impacts on telecommunications infrastructure and services and in doing so, enhance the protection of life and property of Canadians.

Timely notification of telecommunications outages or possible impact to telecommunications services or infrastructure, allows ISED to be better prepared to respond to possible requests from telecommunications companies for federal coordination assistance. Also it allows ISED emergency response personnel to anticipate/co-ordinate inquiries from both federal and provincial government partners.


3.0 Purpose

To enable it to meet its legislative responsibilities related to telecommunications, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is establishing a voluntary notification process in cooperation with the telecommunications sector. It is recognized that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is not the owner or operator of the telecommunications infrastructure. In order to meet its objective, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's primary role is to coordinate information or requests for services or assistance between the telecommunications industry and federal, provincial, territorial stakeholders. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada can assist with coordinating recovery efforts but are neither owners nor operators of the infrastructure.

Telecommunications service providers are requested to provide Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada with incident reports on telecommunications service disruptions/failures using the guidelines outlined below.

This process does not circumvent any existing escalation procedures employed by individual telecommunications service providers with provincial or local authorities.

The telecommunications industry is encouraged to establish escalation procedures with provincial or local authorities as deemed appropriate in order that proactive emergency management measures can be considered and implemented.


4.0 Defining "Emergency"

A telecommunications emergency occurs when telecommunications equipment, systems, functions, or software providing data, Internet Protocol (IP), voice, entertainment, and video has been significantly compromised to the extent that the required restoration exceeds existing operational capacities and restoration procedures may require an escalated response including the potential for multi-telecommunications service providers or government collaboration.

This definition aligns to the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Council (CSTAC). Note that this definition does not include private telecommunications networks.


5.0 Defining "National Critical Infrastructure"

According to Public Safety Canada, critical infrastructure refers to those physical and information technology facilities, networks, services and assets that if disrupted or destroyed would have a serious impact on the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of governments in Canada.


6.0 Triggers for Reporting

6.1 Service Disruption

The following criteria are established to provide guidance in the reporting of service disruptions/failures to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. Reporting of other information is left to the discretion of the individual telecommunications service provider.

6.11 Wireline (traditional and cable)

  • National network failures (internal or affecting other telecommunications service providers) such as Long Distance, SS7
  • Major Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) failures that prevent the delivery of Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) calls to the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN)
  • Network disruptions impacting 911 services for a community(ies)
  • Service failures and/or isolations impacting a community(ies)
  • For a community(ies) where service is impacted, but not to the point where the community is isolated, it is left to the discretion of the telecommunications service provider to determine if the failure is significant enough to report
  • Service providers will use their discretion to report impacts to airports, hospitals, financial, military, power/hydro, government or other critical infrastructure providers.

6.12 Wireless (exclusive of satellite)

  • Service failures and/or isolations impacting a community(ies)
  • Public Land Mobile Network (PLMN) congestion (could result from a major public safety incident) having a major impact on the ability of terminal devices to initiate or terminate voice calls, text messages, or data sessions
  • Mobile phone congestion (could result from a major public safety incident) causing mobile phone network in a local area to become severely congested
  • Loss of wireless network node and cellular "roaming" where alternative services are not available

6.13 Satellite

  • Switching failures affecting voice and/or data
  • Gateway earth station failures
  • Functional loss of a satellite
  • Repositioning of satellites of the fleet to restore service
  • Terrestrial Infrastructure taken offline moved/covered to protect or
  • educe exposure to sever weather or other hazard

6.14 Hosted or Internet or Data Center or Voice-Over-IP, etc.

  • DOS (denial of service) attacks or cyber threats
  • Loss of Internet Protocol (IP) services resulting in national internet service loss
  • Service providers will use their discretion to report impacts to data centre, cloud computing and other IT-based services.

6.2 Infrastructure or Service "At Risk"

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and telecommunication infrastructure owners and operators shall share information related to potential threats to telecommunications infrastructure or services. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada may share related information with other government departments and agencies. The objective of this information sharing is to engage assistance to help prevent service degradation or loss. Method and form of reporting is left to the discretion of the individual telecommunication companies.

Shared information related to an event could include but not necessarily be limited to:

  • potential infrastructure damage or service loss by natural events (i.e. severe weather, mud slide, flood, wild fire, etc.)
  • potential infrastructure damage or service loss by unnatural events (i.e. train derailment, fire/explosion, large scale power outages, etc.)
  • a developing crisis, which evolves over a period of several days or even weeks and does not have an immediate effect; but could eventually have a serious impact the telecom network (i.e. freshet/flooding)
  • Mitigation measures taken (e.g., sand bagging, pre-position of back-up equipment and resources)

7.0 Telecommunications Service Provider Reporting Protocol (to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada)

Service providers and carriers should report outages and disruptions directly to the Regional Emergency Telecommunications Officer (RETO) at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

There are three ISED regions: Western (includes BC, AB, MB, SK and Northern Territories), Atlantic and Ontario Region and Quebec.

For the report template/criteria refer to Appendix A.

For the list of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada RETO contacts refer to Appendix B.


8.0 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Reporting Protocol (to telecommunications service provider)

The ISED Emergency Telecommunications Director in Ottawa and Regional Emergency Telecommunications Officers (RETOs) will endeavour to share all threat, disaster and event information received or obtained, with appropriate telecommunications company stakeholders, when it is determined that the information relates to a potential impact to infrastructure, services, operations or response plans.

ISED will protect corporate confidence and sharing rules as appropriate in addition to observing non-disclosure agreements (e.g., CTEPA NDA) and Government of Canada information security regulations. ISED information sharing will also be subject the appropriate regulations within the Emergency Management, Access to Information and Privacy Acts.

Classified information can be shared subject to approved regulations and processes with representatives having the appropriate security clearances on a "need to know" basis.

Shared products can include but not necessarily be limited to:

  • situation reports (Public Safety, ISED National, ISED Regional, provincial, NATO, US)
  • threat advisories and analyses (e.g., pandemic, terrorism, civil action)
  • disaster forecasts or analyses (e.g., earthquakes, tsunami, hurricane, space weather)
  • E-mail advisories and notifications
  • after-action reports
  • media links, summaries
  • event schedules/plans/maps

Information will be disseminated on a national level through direct communication with telco representatives or via telecom industry e-mail distribution list(s) or and at a regional level with regional telecom representatives directly or through pre-established distribution lists (e.g., Quebec CRTU).


9.0 Disclosure

As the incident reports have the potential to contain sensitive data, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will treat the reports appropriately.

If the reporting telecommunications service provider deems any portion of the requested information to be confidential, then the document should be noted as such by the placement of "Confidential" in that section of the report. It is understood that this "confidential" flag is intended to represent a company requirement for non-disclosure of information and not "Confidential" as an official Government classification.

Normally, only the identified data fields (*) noted in the Information Requested section will be forwarded to the Government of Canada's Government Operations Centre (GOC) for sharing with other federal departments; and to provincial authorities as circumstances warrant. If such fields (*) are flagged "confidential", Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will dialogue with the reporting telecommunications service provider prior to filing with the GOC and/or province(s) in an effort to address the confidentiality concern.

Information flagged as confidential by the reporting telecommunications service provider will be treated as such by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the GOC, in accordance with the Government Security Policy and Access to Information Act (i.e., Section 20).

The GOC may forward information contained in Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's report to the provincial emergency management organizations as part of their routine information sharing process. Incident reports submitted to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will not automatically be distributed to the GOC.


10.0 Definitions

Municipality
A provincially recognized population centre of people.
Isolation
Network node has lost call processing capabilities or has lost access to the toll network (i.e. when any network node cannot process calls into the next higher class switching node in the network and/or where normal channels of communication (non-emergency) have been cut off to a community).
Network node
A piece of electronic switching equipment with a unique Common Language Location Identifier (CLLI).
Asset
An asset is any person, environment, facility, material, information, business reputation, or activity that has a positive value to an owner.
Crisis
An occurrence and/or perception that threatens the operations, staff, shareholder value, stakeholders, brand, reputation, trust and/or strategic/business goals of an organization.
Criticality
The importance of or the dependence an organization has with a person, function, process, item or infrastructure or specific facility.
Critical National Infrastructure
According to Public Safety Canada, critical infrastructure refers to those physical and information technology facilities, networks, services and assets that if disrupted or destroyed would have a serious impact on the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of governments in Canada. The following list indicates the 10 sectors in the National Critical Infrastructure Assurance Program and provides sample sub-sectors for each sector.

  1. Energy and utilities (e.g. electrical power, natural gas, oil production and transmission systems)
  2. Information and Communication Technology (e.g. telecommunications, broadcasting systems, software, hardware and networks, including the internet)
  3. Finance (e.g. banking, securities and investment)
  4. Health (e.g. hospitals, health care and blood supply facilities, laboratories and pharmaceuticals)
  5. Food (e.g. safety, distribution, agriculture and food industry)
  6. Water (e.g. drinking water and wastewater management)
  7. Transportation (e.g. air, rail, marine, surface)
  8. Safety (e.g. chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear safety: hazardous materials; search and rescue; emergency services; and dams)
  9. Government (e.g. services, facilities, information networks, assets and key national sites and monuments)
  10. Manufacturing (e.g. defence industrial base, chemical industry)
Incident
A situation that may be, or may lead to a business interruption, disruption, loss, emergency or crisis.
Threat
Any indication, circumstance, or event with the potential to cause the loss of, or damage to an asset. Threat can also be defined as the intention and capability of an adversary to undertake actions that would be detrimental to critical assets. A threat can be a source of risk.
Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC)
A telecommunications service provider (sometimes called a "carrier") competing with other, already established carriers (generally the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC)).
Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC)
A company providing local telephone service. The incumbent LEC (ILEC) is the local telephony company (telco) in place prior to competition.

Appendix A – Reporting Protocol/Criteria
Report Type Required Information
INITIAL REPORT Yes Affected Community (or geographical area description
Within first 60 minutes of incident becoming known Yes Date/time of incident (24 hr clock/time zone)
Yes Estimated date/time for restoration (24 hr clock/time zone)
Yes Service(s) impacted (if known)
Cause of failure and/or isolation(if known)
Number of subscribers affected (if known)
Impacts to other members of the telecommunications industry (if known)
UPDATE/FINAL REPORT Yes Revision to estimated restoration
Yes Revision to previously noted service(s) impacted*
Yes Resolution of failure and/or isolation including time/date*
Cause of failure and/or isolation
Date modified: