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Fed launches Optus inquiry, homes in on triple 0 and compensation

Fed launches Optus inquiry, homes in on triple 0 and compensation

Technical causes of the outage will not be covered by inquiry.

Michelle Rowland (Minister for Communications)

Michelle Rowland (Minister for Communications)

Credit: Minister for Communications

The federal government has launched a review into the Australia-wide Optus outage that plunged 10 million customers into a blackout.

The inquiry, led by Labor, will largely focus on the November 8 outage’s effects on triple zero and the government's own management and response to national service outages. 

Absent from the list of inquiry priorities are the technical causes of the outage, which was later attributed to the initiation of a failsafe mechanism during a network upgrade. 

“The recent Optus outage caused significant disruption to the lives of millions of Australians, impacted small businesses and left many without the ability to contact emergency services,” said Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland. 

“We need to learn the lessons from this serious incident because no network is immune from technical faults or outages.  

 Other priorities for the inquiry will also include the adequacy of requirements for customer communication in national service outages and the complaints and compensation processes for consumers and small businesses affected. 

In addition, the inquiry will examine the circumstances in which other networks may be relied on to support a network that is subject to a major outage; and 

Other telecommunications sector implications, including resilience and interdependencies between telecommunications networks, will also be on the table. 

The review, led by former ACMA deputy chair Richard Bean, will consult with industry and consumer stakeholders as well as with government and state and territory agencies and will provide a report by 29 February 2024. 

Before her resignation on 20 November, former CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin appeared before a Greens-led senate committee on 17 November into Optus’ outage. 

During the gruelling session, Bayer Rosmarin detailed the root cause of the issue, which was its 90 Cisco PE routers that hit a failsafe mechanism where each one of them independently shut down due to an upgrade on the international peering network at one of the Singtel internet exchanges (STiX) in North America.  

During the session, the head of networks Lambo Kanagaratnam admitted Optus didn’t have a plan in place for the event of a nationwide outage. 

“We didn't have a plan in place for that specific scale of outage. It was unexpected,” Kanagaratnam said. “We have high levels of redundancy and it's not something that we expect to happen.” 

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