Telstra has undertaken to improve delivery of the Triple Zero emergency call service, following an investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority which found the telco had contravened a rule requiring telco providers to ensure that Triple Zero calls made using their networks are carried to the operator of the emergency call service.
The ACMA’s investigation into events of 4 May 2018 found that Telstra had failed to ensure that some 1,433 calls were carried to the operator as a result of problems triggered by a fire in an inter-state cable pit, which were compounded by network software failures.
‘Triple Zero is the lifeline for Australians in life-threatening or emergency situations. Community confidence in the emergency call service must be maintained,’ said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.
The ACMA has accepted a court enforceable undertaking by Telstra in response to the breach findings. In the undertaking, Telstra has committed to improving the redundancy and diversity of its network, developing new communication protocols to be used in the event of another disruption and benchmarking its systems against international best practice.
“The actions Telstra has already taken, and is undertaking, will help strengthen the emergency call service and minimise the risk of another disruption to this critical service,” O’Loughlin said.
As a result of this incident, the ACMA is also reviewing the rules governing the emergency call service to make sure that they are as robust as possible in the context of today’s technologies, and that they impose clear, consistent and appropriate obligations.
“Given the critical nature of the Triple Zero service, the ACMA takes matters about access to the service very seriously,” said O’Loughlin. “The review will help ensure that the rules for the emergency call service remain current and effective.”
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, meanwhile, said it was pleased to hear that the ACMA investigation into Telstra’s historical triple zero outage resulted in a tightening of protections for consumers.
“1,433 calls went unanswered during Telstra’s outage in May. It is not acceptable that Australians in their time of need were unable to reach emergency assistance,” said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin. “Being the contracted government supplier for the nation’s emergency lines means that the community holds Telstra to an understandably high standard.”
ACCAN is hopeful that the court enforceable undertakings that the ACMA and Telstra have agreed to will improve reliability for emergency services calls should the network experience issues such as those seen in May.
Looking forward to the ACMA’s review of the rules governing the emergency call service, ACCAN would like to see the triple zero emergency call service be modernised to reflect the channels people use to communicate, which is much broader than just calls.