Furore over Optus outage continues as federal government announces investigation

Nov 09, 2023
Optus will be subject to two investigations following yesterday's outage. Source: Getty Images

Yesterday, 10.2 million people across the country woke up to find that they had no internet or phone connection. Some soon found that they were not able to call emergency services by landline.

Those catching trains in Melbourne experienced mass delays and cancellations. Others who worked in hospitals across Victoria and NSW found that they were unable to contact or be contacted by patients.

Small business owners hoping for a day of strong sales had their hopes dashed as their EFTPOS machines were unable to accept any payments.

All of this and more happened yesterday as Australia experienced its largest internet and phone connection outage ever due to a 12 hour failure within the Optus network.

While an official cause is yet to be announced as of now, the fallout from the outage will follow Optus around for a long time yet.

The second largest telecommunications company in Australia is contracted to provide telecommunications for government organisations including healthcare and public transport. This is part of the reason why yesterday’s outage caused as much consternation as it did.

This morning, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said her department would undertake an investigation into the outage, saying that it was critical that the telecommunications industry learns from the incident.

“It is critical that industry and Governments take stock following large-scale outages, given no network is immune,” she said in a media statement announcing the review.

In the same statement, she also confirmed that independent industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have launched their own investigation into Optus.

There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that some people still were unable to call emergency services by mobile during the outage. Mobile phones are supposed to be able to use the most available carrier to connect to triple 000.

However, some reported yesterday that Optus cell phone towers were technically still active but not able to connect calls. This caused them to be unable to use the next available carrier, preventing contact with emergency services.

Many people have shared their stories on how the inability to contact health and emergency services either put lives at risk or made them unable to contact relatives who were in hospital.

The Victoria Ambulance Union confirmed that they were unable to call patients back due to the outage.

A woman spoke to Nine News and said that the outage deprived of of the chance to say goodbye to her dying mother because the hospital could not contact her.

A snake catcher in Mildura spoke to the ABC and told them that he was put two hours behind schedule due to the outage.

“Two hours can put a lot of people’s lives in danger,” he said.

He missed fifteen important calls out for dangerous snakes yesterday. Combined with emergency services affected by the outage, this could potentially have caused a life threatening situation.

Small business owners in an increasingly cashless society were also left without many options. With no working EFTPOS and internet connection and commuter chaos affecting the usual morning rush, the days takings were slim for many. There are already growing calls for them to be compensated financially for the losses.

More to come.

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