Regional NSW hit by Triple-0 outage – TelCall magazine May 2006

Regional NSW hit by Triple-0 outage
From TelCall magazine, 17 May 2006

Telstra has blamed earthmoving contractors for severing two major telecommunications cables which resulted in thousands of homes in southern NSW losing phone and internet access, including the triple-0 emergency service, on Friday 12 May.

Two major lines were cut in two separate incidents, one between Wagga Wagga and Griffith, and the other near Gundagai. The first cable had been cut around 10am on Friday, with the second incident happening that afternoon. This brought down the entire landline, mobile and broadband networks for the affected areas, which included the towns of Albury and Bega.

Access to the triple-0 emergency service was lost to homes in the affected region for more than 3 hours as Telstra began emergency repairs and rerouting calls to try to restore access. Triple-0 access was restored to all affected areas except Griffith by 3pm on Friday, with full phone service to all areas restored by midnight.

According to a Telstra spokesperson, the rerouting of calls through Telstra’s global operations centre in Melbourne had allowed priority traffic to get back up on Friday afternoon, with full service restored by midnight.

Telstra took several steps during the outage to inform people of how to access local emergency services while the Triple-0 line was down, including getting on the radio and advising people to contact their local police station if they had an emergency.

A spokesperson for Telstra, which is responsible for operating the Triple-0 emergency service, said the company will continue to investigate the cutting of the two cables, but claimed that two separate earthmoving contractors were to blame. “We sent crews to both sites on Friday.”

Telstra would not disclose the names of the companies it claimed had cut the cables, or whether it will take legal action against the companies who had cut the cables, the spokesperson said “there is legal action which can be taken”.

“The amount of money involved in this sort of restoration is large. We’re not talking about a few thousand dollars to fix a cable.”

While the cutting of cables by earthmoving contractors happens “far too regularly” the scale of the May 12 outage was due to the unfortunate timing of both incidents happening on the same day, said the spokesperson. He urged contractors to use the “Dial before you dig” service before starting work.

While Telstra took the Triple-0 outage seriously, the spokesperson said it was important to keep the event in perspective. “Triple-0 doesn’t go down that often. People need to have confidence in 000.”

The performance of the triple-0 service is monitored by ACMA. An ACMA spokesperson said while it would continue to monitor Telstra’s ongoing investigation into the incidents, it appeared that Telstra had responded to the problem reasonably and in a timely way.

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