Sep 17, 2009

What caused Sydney CBD’s Telstra outage

Thousands of businesses and homes in the northeast of Sydney’s CBD spent a day or more without telephones and the internet yesterday. What happened? And what can you do if it happens to you?

Stilgherrian — Technology writer and broadcaster


Technology writer and broadcaster

Thousands of businesses and homes in the northeast of Sydney’s CBD spent a day or more without telephones and the internet yesterday following a “little incident” with a trench digger. It’ll take a week and $1 million to fix the damage — let alone what it cost in business downtime. How can you avoid problems if something similar happens in your street?

So what happened, exactly?

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6 thoughts on “What caused Sydney CBD’s Telstra outage

  1. Bill Parker

    Would this explain why miybrand new pigpond ultra fast la di dah 20mbps broadband service is only doing 8 or less?

    No good talking unless you speak Voice Recognition language.

  2. Stilgherrian

    Bill Parker: Nope. Your issue is something very different: the magic of the “contention ratio”, which I wrote about in a previous Crikey Clarifier.

    Long story short, your 20Mb/sec, which is presumably on a cable modem connection, is shared with other people. You’ll get 20Mb/sec in those short bursts when no-one else is using that segment of the network. Your overall download speed is also determined by the speed of the “narrowest” part of the network between you and the server you’re downloading from, regardless of what your first-hop link might theoretically be capable of delivering.

  3. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Awww – can’t we just blame Telstra? That usually works. I’m sure all the honest, hard-working staff-members never tire of hearing how incompetent they are. What, your toast was burned this morning? BLOODY TELSTRA! Your bus was late? BLOODY TELSTRA! Go on, you know you want to! I’m all for competition Bill Parker, if it means customers like you who can’t be bothered to read the friggin product description have someone else to go and annoy. Which part of “Up to 20mb/sec did you not understand?

  4. Bill Parker

    Stevo, I like your style but it ain’t that simple. High pressure phone sales ( to a “do not call” number), endless stream of sales pitch, its 8.30 pm. I did not hear the UP to. I kept hearing 20. I told the Telstra bloke “you are lying” several times. At the end of all this the deal was cheaper BY FAR than Optus. So pigpond it is. And I use their download monitor at

    several times a day and Stilgherrian is right. It gets worse. Pigpond as a business does not talk to Telstra ( if that’s still a business) . No one knew what the hell was going on and that damn voice recognition stuff at “technical support” is a joke. I’ll award a medal to a young lady who said – to avoid that say “consultant” and you’ll get a person. She was right. I did. I even got put through to the “Macintosh” department. I wish I hadn’t. Incompetence writ large.

  5. Stilgherrian

    @Stevo the Working Twistie: Hey, Telstra’s the company we all love to hate!

    I saw someone Twitter yesterday complains about this outage saying, “That’s what you get for choosing Telstra.” Apparently all the other telcos have magic cables impervious to jackhammers, or something. Apparently. Arsehats.

  6. Michael Sprange

    In my experience Telstra are an absolute disaster.

    I had them install a new underground line, and later needed to find where the main cable crossed my land. I dialed before I dug and got a map with no information about the cable I wanted to avoid, and what’s more my newly installed cable was mapped completely wrongly. The Telstra code insists you must test dig cautiously and the digger is automatically responsible for any cable damage (that in itself makes the diggers job much slower and harder) – and yet they don’t give a stuff about mapping new lines with anything approaching reality.

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