A CONTRITE Telstra grappling to restore the thousands of phone services blacked out across the south-west has reassured disgruntled customers their bills will be suspended and concessions made to compensate.
The nation’s largest telecommunications company, which suffered a major blow to its reputation when 65,000 landlines, 15,000 broadband customers and more than 80 mobile phone towers went off air early on Thursday last week, has promised a far-reaching review and an independent expert report on the disaster.
Chief operations officer Brendon Riley yesterday described the Warrnambool fire as the most significant impact on customer service from a specific exchange in Telstra’s history.
“We apologise to the people of Warrnambool and surrounding districts for the impact the fire has had on their lives, businesses and community and thank them for their patience during the recovery,” Mr Riley said.
“We understand the seriousness of the situation for our customers and agree a detailed review is needed.”
Telstra has suspended all bills until accounts have been reviewed and adjustments made.
Fixed-line and ADSL customers impacted by the fire will have a month’s line rental credited to their account.
And any Telstra customers who had to use their mobile service as their primary phone or data service while the fixed line was out will not incur additional standard usage charges above their plan allowance.
Telemarketing and Sensis sales calls will be blocked while the damage repair effort continues.
Crews from across the country are continuing the around-the-clock effort installing kilometres of new cables and intricate technical equipment.
The company said yesterday mobile phone 3G coverage had been restored to all areas and efforts were still aimed at restoring basic landline services to all customers by the weekend.
However, ADSL service for fixed-line internet service could take weeks to be restored completely as crews build a totally new equipment base.
“Damage to the exchange is significant and full restoration effort will take time,” Mr Riley said.
The operational review will be led by Telstra’s director of fixed and data access engineering David Piltz, regarded as one of Telstra’s most experienced networks executives.
“This review is about understanding what happened and ensuring we identify and adopt any relevant improvements into our network planning and procedures,” Mr Riley said.“Service impacts of this scale are rarely seen outside disaster situations.”
Thousands of customers across the region have stories on how the outage hit them. Health services including Warrnambool Medical Clinic were left without links to patients, data bases, pathology and other vital services.
“We closed our clinic at the Target centre on Friday and are unsure when we will have data lines back,” clinic practice manager Alistair Ross said.
Great South Coast Medicare said it was helping general practitioners remain accessible to patients.
Legal firms and conveyancy businesses ran a tight balancing act to meet settlement deadlines with co-operation from banks.