The Mirror News

Down and out

FURIOUS Foster business owners are vowing to seek compensation from Telstra following the sudden and prolonged loss of their internet service.

The internet went down without warning at about two o’clock last Thursday afternoon and was not restored until Sunday morning.

The outage affected an estimated 450 Telstra Big Pond customers – households and businesses – crippling many businesses which have come to rely on the internet.

Among the worst affected was the local Tattslotto agency, Pulham’s.

“We were unable to put through any Tattslotto sales,” said Karen Pulham. “On Thursday we wore it, assuming the problem was very local and would soon be fixed. We were horrified to find the machines were still down on Friday morning and the word was that the problem mightn’t be fixed until Monday.”

By 11.45 on Saturday morning, Tattersalls had managed to set up a temporary wireless connection at Pulham’s, so that a few tickets which had been left at the store could be put through, along with some syndicate tickets.

“However, the outage definitely had a significant financial impact on our business and we will be hoping to recover some of our losses,” said Ms Pulham.

The outage severely disrupted Atoll Travel at Foster. Manager Ian Lyon said, “We were greatly inconvenienced without access to airline reservations or ticketing, internet banking and especially email, which we require to communicate with our customers in Australia and overseas.”

Mr Lyon said that eventually he managed to cobble together a limited wireless service which provided access to emails and some banking.

“But there was a lot to catch up with on Monday, when we finally had our internet access restored.”

Local real estate agents PBE and SEJ also lost internet access and were severely affected.

“It was a major disruption for us,” said Wendy Wright of PBE. “We are heavily reliant on the internet to do business and for email communications.”

“If it had dragged on much longer we would have had to find alternative methods to do business,” said the proprietor of the Foodworks supermarket in Foster, Joe Bucello.

The supermarket was unable to dispense phone credits, could not do any internet banking transactions and was unable to receive information from its suppliers by email.

“We were fortunate, I guess, that we now have a back-up system for Eftpos transactions, so these could still go ahead. But we wasted a lot of time trying – in vain – to find out what the problem was and when it would be fixed,” added Mr Bucello.

Doubly troubling for Tarwin Veterinary Group’s Foster office was the loss of its phone service (which is computer linked) along with its internet access. Staff were forced to use mobile phones to contact clients and were not able to access information on the animals they were treating – or any other information they routinely obtain via computer. They managed to make use of a wireless service from a laptop computer, but this provided only very limited internet access and was extremely inconvenient. The clinic struggled through Thursday afternoon, all day Friday and then Saturday morning as the outage persisted. Staff were very relieved to come in on Monday morning and find the internet up and running again.

When the internet went down at ‘The Mirror’ it did, of course, severely disrupt an enterprise which is in the business of communication.

“The worst of it was not knowing when we would get our service back. Try as I would, I could not get an answer from Telstra as to when the problem would be fixed,” said ‘Mirror’ proprietor Robert Best.

Finally, on Monday, when the internet was back up, the Telstra Area General Manager for Southeast Victoria, Jeanette Vannapraseuth, provided an explanation for the outage to ‘The Mirror.’ She said that there had been a fault at the local exchange, and once this was fixed it turned out to be more complicated, with a second fault in Melbourne requiring repair.

Describing the outage as “unfortunate,” Ms Vannapraseuth confirmed that 450 customers in Foster were affected and said that any claims for compensation would be reviewed on a case by case basis. Customers, she said, should contact Telstra on 13 POND.

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