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Automated propagation sees Aussie Broadband go down

It wasn't DNS, but it was DHCP and an overloaded authentication server that caused the outage.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Aussie Broadband

Around 10am eastern Australian time on Thursday, Aussie Broadband suffered an outage that hit various parts of the eastern seaboard.

Users were unable to use their broadband, and the company's status page and app were also knocked down the count.

Even though a fix was put in place quickly, users were still complaining for some time, as the telco told users to restart modems to reconnect.

"The downside of automation is it provides the ability to break things at scale," Aussie Broadband managing director Phil Britt said.

"A change was made to our DHCP configuration this morning, which automatically propagated throughout the network and took services offline for around 10 minutes before a fix was rolled through.

"Following the fix, it took some customers time to get back online as a large number of customers needed to reauthenticate, resulting in increased load on our authentication servers. We profusely apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused."

On Wednesday, the company provided an update for the first quarter. Revenue was reported at AU$111 million and total services increased 46% year-on-year to 577,000. Of that number, 396,000 are residential customers, an increase of 38%, while just shy of 40,000 businesses are now on Aussie Broadband, up 85%.

Aussie Broadband also said it had only 3,000 of its 29,500 customers left to switch from Telstra to the Optus network. The company also took the opportunity to have another swing at NBN over CVC excess charges due to increased downloads during Australia's COVID-related lockdowns in 2021.

Usage increased 15% compared to pre-lockdown usage in May, and the company had AU$3.3 million in excess charges for the quarter, an increase of 137%. Flowing the other way, the telco received AU$800,000 from NBN in rebates.

At the start of the month, NBN said it would calculate CVC relief for each telco individually from a May 2021 baseline for additional data above 25% annual growth rate, would credit retailers for 50% of the AU$8 per Mbps overage charge, and would also be calculating credit in arrears and it could extend into 2022 if pandemic health orders remain in effect.

Despite this, Aussie Broadband said it wasn't enough to cover "the true increase in costs due to lockdowns" and meant it would see higher CVC charges for the next quarter as well.

The company said it had proactively shifted 51,000 users onto higher speed tiers to take advantage of higher CVC inclusions, which helped reduce CVC charges by around AU$1 million.

"Had the company not proactively migrated customers under the focus on fast campaign, and had NBN not provided relief during the period, total CVC expense for the quarter would have been an estimated AU$5.1 million, an increase of 264% on the previous quarter," the company said.

Britt told ZDNet that eligible customers were automatically migrated onto a faster plan because it could pass the rebate onto customers.

"Once the campaign is over, customers will be automatically moved back to their original plan so they don't get charged any extra," Britt said.

"We're emailing customers to let them know that they will be automatically downgraded to the plan they were on pre-migration, unless they choose to stay on the new plan."

Since lockdown restrictions have loosened in New South Wales, Aussie Broadband said it has seen lower usage in the state.

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