On top of massive damage from flooding, towns across the east coast of Australia are putting up with massive telco and internet service outages.
“We are making progress in restoring mobile and landline services following severe weather in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales,” the Telstra website reads.
“We have technicians on the ground in areas we can access and we have more ready to go as soon as other areas open up. Many areas are however still inaccessible due to floodwaters or are without power.”
Over on the Optus website, typing in “Ballina” or some other towns affected by heavy flooding on the service status map will prompt a message in red text: “Sorry, an Optus mobile tower in this area isn’t working,” followed by what coverage you can expect in the area.
Service outages, as you can expect, are a massive problem during devastating weather events. Families need to make sure their loved ones are OK, while organisations need means to transmit what flood-affected people need to know (such as where to take shelter).
Sharon Cadwaller, the mayor of Balina Shire Council, called upon Telstra to set up a mobile signal tower.
“We’re starting to get pockets of power restored, but that [the mobile tower] is the most essential thing, because it’s hampering rescue efforts.” Cadwaller told The Guardian.
While Telstra, Optus, NBN Co and other network managers are working to restore communications in flood-affected NSW and Queensland, you might want to consider what your telco is offering to make communications easier (once you’re able to access networks).
Telstra, for example, has opened up free Telstra Air Wi-Fi access wherever possible in flood-affected NSW and Queensland. Customers can also access 25GB of extra data on prepaid and postpaid plans, along with free calls on prepaid plans. These data packages have a 30 day expiry.
Additionally, Telstra is offering long-term disaster assistance, such as free service reconnection to a flood-affected home, a one-off credit to cover reconnection costs and free call diversions to other fixed addresses or mobile services if necessary.
“We know this a difficult time and we are working to get everything back up and running as quickly as possible and as soon as it is safe to do so. We have technicians on the ground in areas we can access and we have more ready to go as soon as other areas open up,” a Telstra spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia.
“Many areas are however still inaccessible due to floodwaters or are without power. We are working with power and local authorities to access the affected areas so we can get to work to bring services back online.”
Optus customers also have access to 25GB extra data (by calling 1800 507 581) if they’re on a postpaid or prepaid plan. A free interim service is also available to eligible consumer and business home internet customers.
“Optus’ network operations team are monitoring our networks to ensure continuity of services and connectivity for customers. We currently have 64 sites impacted which may result in some network congestion. Due to a major NBN outage, a number of our NBN customers will be without services to the home while NBN work to bring their network back online,” an Optus spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia.
“Optus has two SATCATs deployed, one in Ballina and another in Lismore and a third SATCAT enroute to Nimbin.”
Vodafone also offers flood assistance, however you’ll need to either email email@example.com or ring 1800 185 289 to get help.
“Our priority is to keep as many customers connected as possible as flooding continues to affect parts of New South Wales and Queensland,” a TPG Telecom spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia. TPG is the parent company of Vodafone and iiNet.
“We are working with local emergency services and power companies to restore services in affected areas as quickly as possible, however some impacted sites cannot be safely accessed at this time.
“We have mobile service in most flood-affected areas, except for several postcodes in South East Queensland and northern NSW. Where our network is unavailable, Triple Zero calls will divert to an alternative network where available. NBN services in some Brisbane suburbs, Lismore, Grafton and Ryde are also affected.”
Gizmodo Australia has reached out to NBN Co for further info on telco and internet flood outages, and will update this article as we learn more. If you’re connected to a telco or NBN provider that’s not listed here, check their website for disaster assistance.
Additionally, if needs be, keep in mind that Telstra payphones are now free to use across Australia. If for whatever reason your phone isn’t working and a Telstra phone is available, just know that you have the option.
Our thoughts are with everyone affected at this time.
This article has been updated since it was first published.