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Telcos, ISPs respond to floods

Services whacked, customer assistance, relief donations

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With three-quarters of Queensland now declared a disaster zone in the face of widespread and rising floods, the telecommunications industry has had to scramble to maintain services.

At the same time, carriers and ISPs have also announced a range of assistance package for affected customers, and many have committed donations to flood relief appeals.

The Queensland floods have taken ten lives, with 90 people still unaccounted for. Many of the lives lost were in south-west Queensland’s Darling Downs, when a flash flood hit areas around the city of Toowoomba.

Rising floods around Brisbane and Ipswich have already caused evacuations and are expected to affect many thousands of properties later today. Flood modeling predicts that 2,100 Brisbane streets will be flooded when waters reach their peak.

With much of the state’s telecommunications infrastructure – particularly copper and fibre fixed links – still underwater, the scale of the damage cannot yet be assessed. In an update published yesterday, Telstra said some infrastructure is “still too dangerous to access”, with mobile, fixed line and ADSL services all cut in some areas.

Mobile networks have fared better in some areas, with Vodafone Hutchison Australia, Optus and Telstra reporting that outages in Brisbane have largely been contained. Vodafone stated yesterday (January 11) that its transmission facility in the Brisbane suburb of Coorparoo was affected by flooding, but reported that sandbagging by technicians had allowed mobile services to be restored.

As well as inundation, networks have reported huge traffic volumes, leading to network congestion.

Australian ISPs Internode, iiNet, iPrimus and Exetel have all reported service cuts. As well as the inundation of Telstra exchanges (which house competitive ISPs’ DSLAMs) and cable washouts between exchanges, Internode and iiNet have been impacted by damage to a fibre owned by Nextgen Networks.

The fibre owner says its interstate cable suffered damage near the Queensland town of Thagoona, west of Brisbane. While the fibre cut hasn’t brought down services entirely, it means customers no longer have redundancy.

VoIP provider MyNetFone has said that service cuts to its wholesale suppliers are affecting its customers.

Power cuts due to the flooding are also likely to test the battery back-up capacity of many telecommunications facilities in Brisbane.

As well as customer assistance packages announced by Telstra, Optus, iiNet and others, major carriers and IT companies are starting to appear in the list of donors to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal.

Vodafone led the donations, Telstra has committed up to $1 million in a dollar-for-dollar match with employee donations, and Optus and Microsoft have also offered donations.

Flooding has also hit northern New South Wales, and in separate events, and flash flooding has also hit Melbourne and Western Victoria.

Breaking: According to a posting on the Australian Network Operators' Group (Ausnog) mailing list this morning (January 12), AAPT's data centres in Brisbane have been brought down by flooding.

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