Aust comms authority watching service disruption claims

Following an independent audit by KPMG of the two major carriage service providers (CSP), the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) has agreed to monitor the use of mass service disruption declarations (MSDs) by Telstra and Optus.As recommended by KPMG, the ACA will monitor the geographic incidence of MSDs and investigate locations where they are used more often by Telstra.

Following an independent audit by KPMG of the two major carriage service providers (CSP), the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) has agreed to monitor the use of mass service disruption declarations (MSDs) by Telstra and Optus.

As recommended by KPMG, the ACA will monitor the geographic incidence of MSDs and investigate locations where they are used more often by Telstra. KPMG also recommended that Optus improves its processes and procedures for using MSDs, even though it declares only a small number each year.

According to the report, the current system of exemption assessment and declaration by Optus is somewhat informal - relying upon the "reasonableness" approach. Although this approach is understandable given the very small number of MSDs declared, KPMG suggested it be more formal, structured and documented.

Under the customer service guarantee (CSG), telecommunications carriers who do not meet performance standards for the delivery of services to customers are required to pay compensation. However, in certain circumstances, such as natural disasters, carriers can issue an MSD which exempts them from the required performance standards and the payment of compensation.

Overall, the report found that both Telstra and Optus have appropriate systems and processes in place when declaring exemptions under the CSG Standard. It also concluded that both carriers had achieved adequate levels of compliance when applying their own CSG exemption policies and procedures.

The ACA has accepted a recommendation from KPMG that it monitors the geographic incidence of MSDs and investigate more closely the circumstances in locations where MSDs occur more often.

KPMG analysed MSDs claimed by Telstra in 2002-03 and identified that NSW, and the North Coast and New England areas in particular, had experienced a high number of MSDs in that year. New England had 103 days that were affected by MSDs during 2002-03. The analysis also showed that country NSW experienced a significantly higher number of MSDs over the period compared to any other part of Australia.

ACA Acting Chairman Dr Bob Horton said "the findings and recommendations will assist the ACA's monitoring and investigation work, especially when looking at the geographic incidence of MSDs and the frequency of MSDs in particular areas of Telstra's operations".

Horton assures that areas in NSW where MSDs were frequently declared would be the subject of further monitoring and investigation.

The ACA will examine the link between seasonal weather events and frequency of MSDs in particular locations, including evaluation of workload peaks, fault levels, network performance and demand on resources.

"In addition to specific investigations, the ACA will also increase the level of monitoring when it is notified of MSDs by Telstra and Optus. This will include gathering additional information such as Bureau of Meteorology reports for particular areas," Horton said.

The ACA would also gather further information about Telstra's lightning protection program, particularly in geographic areas where MSDs are frequently declared due to lightning strikes.

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