Terms of reference released for review of Optus outage

Wednesday, 29 November, 2023

Terms of reference released for review of Optus outage

The Australian Government has announced further details for its post-incident review of November’s Optus outage, which caused significant disruption to the ability of Australians to communicate, to run small businesses and even to contact emergency services.

The review aims to reveal what industry, government and the community can learn from the outage, with a specific focus on emergency calls, customer communications and complaints handling. The terms of reference of the review will provide Optus — and the broader telecommunications industry — the opportunity to proactively address key underlying issues that arose in relation to the network outage, while providing the government with an evidence base for any potential reforms.

The government has appointed Richard Bean, formerly the Deputy Chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), to lead the review. Bean has a long and distinguished history of involvement with the communications sector and is currently serving as an Executive Director for Ad Standards and on the Nomination Committee of auDA.

The review will report on and make recommendations regarding the following:

  • The functioning of Triple Zero during the outage, including whether changes are required to ensure continued access to Triple Zero during outages, as well as the interactions between industry participants and the Triple Zero Service.
  • The role of government in managing and responding to national service outages.
  • The adequacy of requirements for customer communication in national service outages.
  • The adequacy of how customer complaints and compensation processes performed for consumers and small business following the outage.
  • The circumstances in which other networks may be relied on to support a network that is subject to a major outage.
  • Other telecommunications sector implications, including resilience and interdependencies between telecommunications networks.

The review will consult widely with industry and consumer stakeholders as well as with Australian Government and state and territory agencies, and will provide a report to government by 29 February 2024.

The ACMA has meanwhile commenced its own assessment to investigate Optus’s compliance with the existing regulatory framework, including with the rules requiring that emergency calls are successfully carried from mobile carriers to the Emergency Call Person (Telstra).

“We need to learn the lessons from this serious incident, because no network is immune from technical faults or outages,” said Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland.

“The Albanese government’s post-incident review will help industry identify where its processes need to be strengthened, and provide advice to government on potential reforms.

“Australians expect and deserve better from their communications service providers when these kinds of incidents arise and I would encourage all to have their say — from impacted businesses and industry through to consumers.”

For more information on the review, click here.

Image credit: iStock.com/Alihan Usullu

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