On Telstra and the free data day(s)

telstra outageLook I don’t know if this is more about Telstra or about the parlous state of reporting in this country. But it’s certainly about something.

For the second time in a short period Telstra has a major outage. This is not a trivial thing. Emails were not delivered. Phone calls were not received. People lost business. People dealt with personal problems. For most of us having ubiquitous access is crucially important. And let’s face it, we didn’t choose Telstra because we like their pricing or their customer service. We chose them because of their coverage and reliability. Both of which are worth nothing when the network keeps collapsing.

So even if you don’t entirely agree that having access to the telephone service you paid for is a significant issue (yes, I know I could have used the time to meditate; instead I used it to fulminate) run with me on this and assume it’s significant to many people.

So what does out press say about it? Well when it happens they take screenshots of random Twitter and Facebook comments and report them as ‘news’.  That’s not news, it’s low-level vox pop passing as comment. And the follow-up analysis? Well that’s the Herald’s ‘technology’ section reporting that during Telstra’s mea culpa free day some loon downloaded a terabyte of stuff. Who cares?

So Telstra, to say sorry, gives everyone a free day of downloads. It’s a fairly meaningless gesture. It’s on a Sunday, so no use to businesses. It doesn’t recognise the significant harm caused. Many of us have more than enough download limit anyway, that we’d paid for, so we don’t really get anything. It’s a good PR gesture and nothing more. It’s certainly not compensation – real compensation might start by refunding a day’s subscription fee. But the free day let our local hero take Telstra to the tune of the entire Mythbusters series – so that’s alright then. Someone downloading a bunch of stuff barely qualifies as a human interest story, let alone significant news – and it certainly doesn’t reflect upon the real issue here which is whether we can rely on Telstra any more.

Where are the technology stories about why the outage occurred? Where is the investigation? The highlighting of the damage? Google ran an ill-judged April Fool’s joke and got torn to shreds because a person might have lost some work by pressing the wrong button. Telstra crashes it’s network twice in a couple of months and… nothing.

There’s no investigation by the press, no introspection by Telstra. Telstra gets to treat the whole thing like a stress test: “We are … glad to see the underlying strength of the network demonstrated despite a few hot spots where heavy users caused localised congestion.”

As I said at the beginning, I’m not sure what depresses me more: Telstra letting me down and putatively buying me off with a meaningless gesture, or our press just letting the ball through to the keeper, or what passes for technology reporting. I am sure none of it is filling me with confidence in either our major telco or our third estate.

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