Areas within the suburb I live in are experiencing a significant Telstra outage. According to residents, they have been notified that the outage will last around two days. And while many of the people most vociferously complaining are parents whose kids are missing the latest instalment of Paw Patrol on Foxtel, there’s a more severe, at least in my view, impact. All those households will be without Internet access for a couple of days. In 2017 – is that good enough?
When I was kid, it was commonplace for households to keep a stash of candles and matches in an easy-to-find place in case of a power outage. Back then (I grew up in the 70s) the power would often go out during the winter in suburban Melbourne.
But, over time, our power supply has become far more reliable (at least in the areas I’ve lived – it’s fair to say the experience of energy reliability varies across the country). It seems to me our communications infrastructure is still back in the 70s when it comes to reliability.
We are using copper cables, originally designed for voice, to carry lots of data. And those cables, and much of the supporting infrastructure is ageing.
But here’s the thing. 15 years or so ago, always-on broadband internet connections were relatively new and not everyone had them. Today, the idea of dialling into the internet and not being constantly connected is unfathomable to most people. Certainly, my teenage and young adult kids have no recollection of dial-up.
In today’s Australia – is it acceptable for a major public utility to be unavailable for two days? Electricity, water and gas are subject to service guarantees with providers penalised if they exceed particular outage levels. Should the providers of our communications infrastructure be subject to the same?