Twelve months after Optus was hacked and exposed customer data in droves, it is back in the spotlight again for all the wrong reasons. An outage that even impairs emergency calls is not good enough. What’s the scam?
The scam is not just the inadequate redundancies in Optus’ network, but the decades of Australia’s failed telecommunications policies.
Once upon a time, when Telstra was Telecom and had a monopoly on phone calls, an outage that impacted on millions would not, could not, happen. Granted, a cable breakage might impact on a local area or a suburb or two, but not the whole country.
Today, we are ‘blessed’ with competition, with Telstra, Optus and TPG/Vodafone being the main providers of retail phone services, NBNCo providing the internet access backbone, and a plethora of other companies providing added retail and wholesale competition by largely using the networks of the main operators and the NBN..
But what we no longer have is the USO, the Universal Service Obligation that once was Telecom and Telstra’s yolk to bear, guaranteeing services in even the most remote part of the Australian outback.
And as telecommunications networks have become digitised and more complex, regulation has lagged behind, competition has been allowed to flourish unfettered and unsupervised. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is under-funded and ineffective, while the ACCC’s role is limited to regulating NBNCo wholesale pricing and stopping mergers that may reduce competition.
There is no USO anymore. There is also no regulation that says that a telecommunications license comes with a requirement for guaranteed redundancy, minimum uptime requirements, maximum outage restrictions, cross-network interoperability or penalties for failure to provide a minimum service level.
And Optus CEO, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, gets away with just saying sorry. Again.
Kim Wingerei is a businessman turned writer and commentator. He is passionate about free speech, human rights, democracy and the politics of change. Originally from Norway, Kim has lived in Australia for 30 years. Author of ‘Why Democracy is Broken – A Blueprint for Change’.