Router failure forces city hall to shuffle schedule

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A technology failure forced the postponement of a committee meeting at city hall Tuesday, as it disrupted City of Winnipeg-operated websites, email and web-conferencing for hours.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/04/2022 (225 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A technology failure forced the postponement of a committee meeting at city hall Tuesday, as it disrupted City of Winnipeg-operated websites, email and web-conferencing for hours.

City spokesman Kalen Qually said the problem was first reported at 9 a.m., which information technology staff traced to the failure of a core router device, which caused widespread issues.

All network services were restored between 11:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., Qually said in an emailed statement.

It may be the first time network technical difficulties delayed an entire standing policy committee meeting, says Coun. Cindy Gilroy. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The disruption lasted long enough to force the cancellation of a property and development committee meeting, which was scheduled to handle appeals.

In the hour leading up to the cancellation, some councillors were unable to login to their email accounts or read the meeting’s online agenda items. Multiple members of the public, who were scheduled to make remote presentations to the committee, couldn’t access the meeting through Zoom, said Coun. Cindy Gilroy, who leads the committee.

It may be the first time such technical difficulties delayed an entire standing policy committee meeting, which was rescheduled to April 25, Gilroy said.

“Sometimes, our Zoom’s not working or the internet’s a little fuzzy, but this seemed to be kind of a network issue that needed a lot more trouble-shooting than what we normally would have to deal with,” said Gilroy.

Since Winnipeggers, councillors and city staff can now all participate in the meetings by phone or video link, the meeting couldn’t go on until the problem was fixed, she said. It was not initially clear how long that would take.

“We could have had the meeting if everyone was in (the council) chamber… but because people had registered online, (they deserve) every opportunity to make sure that they’re being heard. So that’s why we had to postpone,” Gilroy said.

The councillor stressed the values of offering online meeting access outweigh the pitfalls, since it allows residents who can’t physically attend a city hall meeting to weigh in on key decisions.

The city may need to explore how best to ensure the problems aren’t repeated, she said.

“I think everybody has computer issues from time to time, so I don’t think that we’re out of the ordinary, but it is concerning when we’re having to postpone meetings because of it. So we will have to look at this so we can learn from it for future meetings.”

Municipal officials don’t expect the problem to be repeated, Qually said.

“The city does not anticipate a recurrence of this issue and is engaging the device manufacturer to avoid any future problems,” he said.

John Giavedoni had signed up to speak on a development, but instead waited about an hour to learn the meeting would be cancelled.

It was little frustrating for those who already faced challenges signing up to speak, since the meeting came shortly after Easter and storm cancellations made it tougher to reach city staff, Giavedoni said.

“It’s troublesome because there were many people that were going to be speaking via Zoom. It’s been a very difficult process,” he said, estimating he knew of at least 10 people who signed up to speak remotely, though he largely shrugged off the technical glitch, noting no online system works perfectly all the time.

Council has voted to extend remote meeting participation until the end of 2022, an option that was first offered due to the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, Winnipeggers could only speak during council and committee meetings by attending them in person.

Many council members have said they expect remote access will become permanent.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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