While the confusion surrounding who was to blame for the Telstra outage that left many Cape York residents unable to use their phones for 40 hours continues, one Far North Queensland politician says the long-term solution is more fibre.
Telstra and its contractors have remained silent about the ongoing reliability crisis since the Cape York Weekly broke the news the telecommunications giant had been caught in a lie about the cause of the mid-January outage.
After the story broke, Telstra hit back and claimed it had been “upfront and factual throughout and strongly refute your claims of dishonesty”.
But Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch agrees there are too many inconsistencies in Telstra’s account, adding he had been informed there was a chance the root causes of the problem were cost cutting and contractors engaging subcontractors.
“Clearly there was some false information, or, if it wasn’t false, it was certainly misleading,” Mr Entsch told the Cape York Weekly.
“What they’re telling me, the contractors are telling me, is that Telstra basically then screwed them down on price [and] they then went to this other mob and got them down on price, and they [the subcontractor] are substandard in the delivering of the service.
“There’s been a scramble, I understand, with this second-tier or third-tier contractor racing around to try and fuel up all of these sites now, because they haven’t done it prior to the wet.”
The cause of the 19-21 January, 2024 outage was found to be the generator at Telstra’s Coen tower running out of fuel.
Residents, business leaders and elected representatives from across Cape York have been scathing of Telstra’s service delivery since the most recent outage, but Mr Entsch said nothing would change until there was a redundancy in place for the far northern telecommunications network.
“The fact that we have one single link through to the Torres Strait is something that we’ve known for a long time, and that’s not adequate,” he said.
“What I have asked Telstra reps to do … is to come through with a proposal to give us the alternative link.
“You’ve now got fibre into Normanton … so what do I need to go for to get fibre from Normanton up to the western cape, to Weipa or somewhere like that?”
The latest outage came just days before the Federal Government announced the launch of its triennial Regional Telecommunications Review, which is tasked with examining the existing and future telecommunication needs of regional and remote Australia.
Mr Entsch denied the lack of prioritisation was due to the fact there was only one federal vote covering the entirety of Cape York.
“It’s about serving population,” he said.
“You’ve got to be practical when you’re looking at this, but it doesn’t mean to say that we can’t continue to upgrade.
“They key is now to get a second fibre cable, and it’s got to be linked right up to the Torres Strait.
“If you get one that’s coming up from the south and it fails, you can immediately switch over to [the Normanton connection].”