Are Two Day Internet Outages Acceptable?

Are Two Day Internet Outages Acceptable?
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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?


  • If the work takes two days, the work takes two days. And if it has to be done, it has to be done. It surely sucks, but sometimes that’s how things happen.

    If you think they’re dragging their feet with a 15 minute job taking two days, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and ask for advice. But if it seems like the work really will take two days, there’s not much you can do. Your ISP will be able to offer a partial refund for the period you weren’t able to use your service.

    • Your ISP will be able to offer a partial refund for the period you weren’t able to use your service.As an observation, the refund amounts for any outage are so small as to be hardly worth the hassle of claiming in most cases.

      • The ISP is generally also obliged to compensate any expenses made by the customer for an alternative service during the interruption. If you have to use a 4G dongle, you can push the ISP to refund the cost of both the hardware (if purchased new for this outage) and the service cost. The TIO mentions this on their website, as well as saying if the ISP refuses to compensate your expenses you can file a complaint with them and they’ll follow it up.

  • is it acceptable for a major public utility to be unavailable for two days? Well that’s the nub of it – is it a major public utility? Or still a luxury? If it’s a utility then we’re going to have to face up to the fact that if we want faster repairs then we’re going to have to pay for them.
    Having suffered multiple lengthy outages I’m still of the opinion that I’d rather have cheaper bills than a more reliable, more expensive service. Which then brings into discussion “business” grade services where you get an SLA. It can still be the same fault that drops your service (a digger cutting a cable or a fire in an exchange doesn’t care if you’re a business or residential customer), but there’s reassurance that it might get priority attention (in reality, I doubt it does). But you pay extra for it.
    Where this all gets a bit contentious is nbn and its replacement of a landline phone (that had various guarantees) with a VOIP solution with no such guarantees. If it hasn’t happened already, it can only be a matter of time until an nbn-provisioned phone outage results in loss of life. Quite how we’ve arrived at an nbn solution that has allowed all telephony guarantees to be tossed aside is mindboggling.

    • That’s a fairly myopic view. The PSTN for all it’s pre-internet, pre-mobile advantages is now irrelevant. Cellular phones are infinitely more flexible and reliable than the PSTN. Voice traffic is now free to be able to be piped via cell or VOIP, meaning there are MORE redundancies these days, not less.
      Then to escalate an already ridiculous argument with reckless speculation that it will ‘result in loss of life’ is monumentally laughable.

      Furthermore, even if we completely ignore cell phones and talk about voice over FTTP (as it was originally designed and intended for the NBN), it has exactly the same guarantees as the superseded PSTN – if not more, since you have the option of installing a battery backup unit in your Network Termination Device. With FTTP, you are able to subscribe to dedicated voice services through the dedicated voice ports on the NTD. In effect, this is exactly the same functionality as the PSTN network, only MORE reliable, not less.

      • All well and good if you’re on fttp. Sadly fttp isn’t being made available a to everyone. And not as good as the obligation Telstra had to service everyone with a reliable connection without requiring battery backup and customers to understand them.
        And as monumentally laughable as it may be to some it’s not hard to foresee a situation where someone trips down their dark stairs in a power cut and is then unable to call for help as they’re on fttn and hadn’t ups’d their domestic equipment. Unlikely, but rolling out new technology should never increase personal risk. If NBN had been done properly (as you suggest with fttp) it wouldn’t increase risk.

  • Depends on the outage, but they should have fault identification and a response plan in place as soon as possible, and clearer communication with customers.

    With more and more services being leveraged as add-ons to internet services, also with NBN power outages meaning no basic telecommunications, a much faster and critical response should be leveraged from providers with greater guarantees considering what they are charging is as far more than electricity, gas or water.

    My biggest issue is the number of waivers they ask you to surrender your rights to when getting a connection… they have pretty much the right to say Not Our Fault and not disclose its their fault when they mysteriously fix it and not tell you its fixed. Wow, its mysteriously working!

  • If person who are living in suburb and experience this problem then the ISP must think of alternative and resolve those problem because if they are not going to do that then they have to refund the payment of those customers and that might give a big loss to company on the other hand it can make a good market reputation.

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