The good news? In Brisbane, I have a washing machine. The bad news? Optus apparently thinks data services are an unnecessary luxury throughout the Brisbane CBD. It’s one thing to have no luggage, but how can I do any work with no net connection?As I hinted on Tuesday, my ending up in Brisbane on Origin night was a total coincidence. I’m entirely sympathetic to league fans who feel utterly rorted by Nine’s HD-free approach to sports broadcasts, but I didn’t realise that Origin was even on until it became apparent that all my usual Brisbane hotel choices were unavailable.
In the end, I booked the same venue in Kangaroo Point we used when we staged our Lifehacker reader meetup in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago. Familiarity aside, that had one big benefit: it was a serviced apartment, complete with its own washing machine and dryer. Because I had been concentrating on low-cost hotels, serviced apartments had rarely been an option, but in Brisbane there wasn’t any other choice. That meant no stressing over the washing/drying routine, and a chance to fully wash my gear at the halfway point.
That should have made Brisbane the most relaxed night of the trip. However, I didn't count on a virtual Optus meltdown which left me Internet-free for several hours. I'm in online publishing. That's like chopping my legs off. And I'm not in the middle of nowhere, where you might expect problems; I'm right in the centre of Australia's third-largest city.
Optus goes dark
I'd been having connectivity problems in Brisbane ever since I hit the CBD, with the connection alternating between non-existent, voice only and occasional minor bursts of GPRS. By the time I got to my Kangaroo Point apartment, it was entirely dead.
I connected and reconnected. I powered off and rebooted. I discovered that there were no Wi-Fi options in this complex, only cabled Internet for a fee. I left the apartment and roamed the streets. And finally, when it became clear nothing else had worked, I rang Optus support.
After 30 minutes on hold, a tech support person finally answered and told me that "maybe" someone had dug through some fibre in the vicinity, and "perhaps" it would be fixed shortly. That didn't happen until some time after midnight. "There's a lot of rumours flying around here," the Optus guy said. Gee, that's helpful.
Ultimately, these kind of annoyances go with the territory. Optus can't control every idiot with a backhoe. But nor can it make me feel good by putting me on hold for half an hour and then sounding utterly clueless about when things will be fixed.
Until now, I haven't felt any real productivity loss from working entirely on a single device and relying largely on a single connection. Optus pushed me over that line a little.
Ideally, I'd have Wi-Fi as a backup option in every hotel I stayed in, even if the charges were high. Again though, not much choice in Brisbane last night. At least in Adelaide, where I'm heading today, there's the free Internode network in the CBD if Optus breaks again.
UPDATE: Just got this official explanation through Optus PR:
We had a fibre break on our coastal route between Sydney and Melbourne at Bateman's Bay yesterday afternoon. As a result of this break, we had congestion in our core IP network which in turn caused congestion on links serving three of our Radio Network Controllers in Brisbane, impacting mobile data services in and around the Brisbane CBD. The fibre break was fixed at approximately midnight last night which was when your service was restored.
For the No Luggage experiment, Angus Kidman is doing his normal job while travelling Australia for a week with not much more than a BlackBerry. He did not expect this would mean getting up at 1am to approve comments.