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Greg's Telstra line outage, November 1998
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The longest line outage I've had so far was also the first. It lasted a total of five days spread out over a space of nine days. Here's a blow-by-blow description not only of the progress (or lack of same), but also how the different parts of Telstra have so much difficulty communicating with each other.

11 November 1998, 21:10:04 freebie pppd[264]: Modem hangup, connected for 6525 minutes

This was the first sign of a total failure of all of our 5 phone lines (and, it eventuated, all the rest in the area). In the next hour or so, as I tried to move my Internet connection from one line to the other, they all failed except for -726, which was barely adequate for voice communications, but at least I was able to contact the faults line and report it. I got a modem connect on it a couple of times, and once a couple of pings found their way to the other end of the PPP line, but it didn't stay up long, and it wasn't worth even thinking about using it.

Thursday, 12 November 1998, 9:30:

Telstra faults called me and told me that a cable had been damaged in the rain, and that they were working on it. They were expecting service to resume on Saturday.


On the way to a neighbour's to collect my Email, I drove down Battunga Road towards Echunga looking for a Telstra car. I found two parked by a culvert, and they showed me the 70 pair cable which had apparently been damaged during work on the culvert–it was hardly the regulation 30 cm under ground, though possibly it had been before the culvert was built.

Friday, 13 November 1998, 12:10: Service resumes.
18 November 1998, 9:30 (approx):

Lines -250 and -286 fail. I call the fault number to report them, along with the information that these two lines are on a Pairgain system, and that the other three lines are working fine.


I get a call back on my mobile phone saying that the lines check out fine, there must be something wrong with my phone. Since I used the phone to call them (on another line), and three phones all claim the lines are dead, I doubt this. In the middle of this, the phone battery dies. I don't hear any more.


I call the faults people to ask what's going on. They promise a fix by 16:30.


Called by Telstra technician Tom (?), who claims he should probably live at my place, all the work he gets to do there. He's looking into it.

19 November, 9:30:

I call the faults people again and am again informed (by Lorraine) that the line is functional. I ask to speak to her supervisor. While she's connecting me, the phone connection is dropped. Call back again, get Linda this time. I ask to be connected to her supervisor, but she tells me there is no such thing. Finally she agrees to connect me to Lorraine, who says she's in the process. After a second drop of connection, I am connected to Christine Ryall, who says she's a supervisor. I wonder what Linda's thinking of. Christine tells me that the fault is on the E71 (cable fault, longer duration) queue, but that somebody should have reestablished a temporary connection. She tells me that in the meantime Lorraine has checked the line and--how about that?--it's still down. She promises to get back to me by 11:00.


I get a phone call on my mobile phone with a recorded message asking me to press 2 for residential servies. I do so and am told that the technician probably hasn't twigged to the fact that the line is diverted. If I get any more, I should hang up.


I get another computer-generated message on my phone with the following information:

A wire battery voltage: 1V
B wire battery voltage: 1V
A wire resistance to Earth: 1.1 Megohm
B wire resistance to Earth: 140 kilohm
A wire to B wire resistance: 1.0 Megohm
B wire to A wire resistance: 1.0 Megohm
A wire capacitance: 1.8 µf
B wire capacitance: 1.8 µf

Pity I don't know which line it's on, or how to contact the bloke doing the work. Still no call from Christine.


John calls me and tells me that line -250 is running. This time it is, but -286 is still not running. They plan to come here and have a look.


John shows up, claiming things should be working. I check again. -250 wasn't working: I had plugged in the wrong line (-730). Still no improvement. John went off looking for the remote Pairgain unit.

20 November, 8:30:

Called Telstra faults, spoke to Seaneen. She wanted not only my number, but also my name and my address. It seems that the information you have to supply and the information you get depends on who you talk to.

She told me that the line would be fixed at 1630, which she confirmed was the “latest committment”–a term I suspect means “get off our backs, if it's not done by then, it'll be tomorrow”. I asked for Christine, but she said she wasn't in today, and may not be coming at all. She promised to research and call back within 15 minutes if Christine wouldn't be calling.

She also said that the linesmen had been out on the 18th and confirmed that the lines were working. Despite the fact that I had drawn their attention to the fact in the initial report, it appears that nobody had checked the Pairgain system.


Seaneen calls back and says that Christine is off work today. She'll check with the help desk, which is currently unreachable (!), and will probably make the next call back within 30 minutes.


Seaneen calls back and tells me that she couldn't get hold of the person responsible because he was in a meeting. Then she saw him at the help desk, and promised to call back once she had spoken to him.


Seaneen calls back. No further information is available, but she still expects it to be finished today. She'll call be if she has any information.


Ivan Clothier turns up and wants to look at the termination of the lines. I manage to fight him off, and go down to the road where John was headed yesterday when he was last seen. Found the Pairgain system, which Ivan disconnected and found a short between there and the other end of the Pairgain loop. Ivan expects it to take between 30 minutes and two hours.


Seaneen calls me on my mobile and tells me that she is handing off to the next shift, and that people will contact me next week for a post mortem.


Rebecca calls me on my mobile and tells me that the problem has been resolved.


Ivan Clothier comes back to check everything's still working. He gives me his identification (L476) in case I need to find him again. Seems that it was a line fault. There were two or three faults at once, and this appeared to have confused his younger colleagues.

23 November, 15:30

Seaneen called up again, as promised, and discussed the matter, though I didn't see there was much more to discuss. Finally she agreed to refund two months' phone rental because of the problems. This is so different from the previous reactions that I'm left feeling that somebody has been stirring inside Telstra on my behalf.

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