Tapping Twitter to monitor broadband outages

Australian Internet access provider Telstra is using the microblogging service to monitor service interruptions and contact customers about support plans. Will its rivals follow suit?
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

A number of Telstra's major broadband rivals have said they have no immediate plans to follow the telecommunications company's lead and use the Twitter microblogging service to monitor service outages and contact customers about support plans, though a closer look shows Optus to be one of the only large carriers not using the tool.

Telstra launched the offering over the past several weeks, garnering a mixed response from Australian users of the service, but rivals Optus, iiNet and Internode said they weren't as keen to offer an official Twitter-based service.

iiNet did admit that it had already dabbled in the tool and had an unofficial Twitter account. But the Internet service provider did not intend on extending the channel to offer Twitter support in an official capacity, according to a company representative.

"For now, we're interested in informally participating in the commodity-free, open-conversation platform that Twitter encourages," iiNet said.

Despite its unofficial nature, answers to iiNet customer queries have been posted on the Twitter stream since the first post, on September 30. In reply to one tweet on whether responses would be coming 24-7, the company said, "Not at this stage, no. For now, it's proof of concept, hurtling towards a greater destiny! We hope."

The iiNet account's opening follows that of competitor Internode, which existed despite the ISP's managing director, Simon Hackett, saying the company was happy with its current use of broadband information site Whirlpool to communicate with customers.

"We're quite open to the idea [of using Twitter], but to date, we're finding that being open and accountable on Whirlpool has served us well for many years and continues to do so," Hackett said.

He said many senior staffers, including himself, were active on Twitter. Recently, when Internode had an outage, Hackett made multiple posts on threads discussing the problems.

Internode's Twitter stream has been in operation since midway through last year. Optus, however, seems to be the odd one out, with no Twitter account, official or otherwise.

"At this point in time, we're not using Twitter. However, we are always looking at emerging technologies and tools to improve the way in which we communicate with our customers," an Optus representative said.

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