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Aussie telco Optus has revealed that the network outage it suffered back in November resulted in almost 2,700 emergency calls to Triple Zero not connecting, over 2,400 more than it originally reported.
The telco’s interim chief executive, Michael Venter, announced that 2,697 emergency calls didn’t connect as a result of the outage, which is over 11 times more than the originally reported number of 228.
Additionally, the telco’s former CEO, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, had said that manual welfare checks had been performed on every single person who was unable to contact emergency services, as part of Optus upholding an emergency protocol.
“Thankfully, everybody is OK,” she said.
However, it has since been revealed that for the additional 2,468 calls, not a single welfare check was performed, after a large number of callers pressured the telco by revealing they had not received a follow-up.
“As part of our commitment to learn from the Optus outage on 8 November 2023, we undertook a review of our processes for calls that were unable to connect to the Triple Zero service,” the telco wrote in an update to its blog.
“That review has now shown that there were an additional 2,468 customers that made Triple Zero calls from our network that did not reach the Emergency Service Centre and for which a welfare check was not undertaken.”
Optus has said that following the new announcement, it will update the Senate and has provided the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with the additional details.
It has also said it was hiring a third party to audit its welfare check obligations and processes and will implement any recommendations from the third party.
“There is nothing more important to us than the safety and security of our customers, but regrettably, on 8 November, we did not meet the standards our customers and the community expect from us,” said Venter.
“I offer my deepest apologies to all those customers who were unable to access Triple Zero services during the outage and did not receive a follow-up check from us.
“We are writing to each customer individually to apologise for this and provide the opportunity to discuss their specific circumstances and whether there is anything we can do to assist them further.
“We know we let our customers down, and our entire team is committed to addressing all learnings from the outage.’’
Optus has said it will continue to work with the government, Senate, and ACMA as investigations into the outage continue.
The Optus outage in question occurred on 8 November 2023, resulting in phone and internet services being unavailable for a large portion of its customers.
About 10.2 million customers and a large number of organisations were affected by the outage, including over 40 hospitals.
“At around 4:05am, Wednesday morning, the Optus network received changes to routing information from an international peering network following a routine software upgrade,” said Optus.
“These routing information changes propagated through multiple layers in our network and exceeded preset safety levels on key routers which could not handle these.
“This resulted in those routers disconnecting from the Optus IP Core network to protect themselves.”
The Senate also said that it was worried about customer compensation. While Optus had given its customers an extra data quota of 200 gigabytes for those on postpaid plans and said that pre-paid customers would be entitled to unlimited weekend data for the rest of the year, the Senate pointed out instances of financial losses for businesses and individuals who rely on the network for their living.
According to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), those affected can receive compensation.
For those making claims of financial loss, the TIO can direct a telco to provide up to $100,000 in compensation, with claims greater than that recommended to engage in legal action.
Those whose complaints concern privacy rights can also be awarded up to $100,000, while other issues have a maximum compensation of $1,500.
“We apologise sincerely for letting our customers down and the inconvenience it caused,” the telco said.
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