Cut cable causes chaos

A MISTAKE by a pipe-laying contractor on the Gold Coast left Optus customers in Tweed Heads and throughout Queensland in a communications dark age yesterday morning.

Numerous businesses around the Tweed could not be contacted by phone, and retailers were forced to use hard-copy eftpos receipts after a cable was severed by a non-Optus worker at Molendinar, west of Surfers Paradise yesterday.

Optus Director of Network Operations Peter Sutherland outlined what had gone wrong in a statement yesterday afternoon.

He said the cut, which happened at 7.53am, impacted a number of services, including:

Fixed line voice and data to and from Queensland; Mobile for customers located in Queensland; Internet browsing for Queensland customers to servers outside Queensland.

"Some mobile services in Northern New South Wales were also affected," Mr Sutherland added.

The cuts could not have come at a worse time for the Tweed City Shopping centre and the retail industry in general.

It was Tweed City's first day operating its new food court and fashion wing, and most businesses could not use eftpos.

While Mr Sutherland said services were reconnected at midday, Healthpoint Chemist at Tweed City was still without eftpos after 3pm. Store supervisor Tracey Carter said it had been a big hindrance.

"It just gets archaic all of a sudden going back to the old days," she said. "Retail is already quite down, and this is just something retail really doesn't need."

Gayle Thompson, who worked the registers, said it had been time-consuming and the customers had mostly been patient, but were getting less so as the afternoon went on. Centre manager Kath Mills said the cut had not only affected business but also the Gold Coast public as a whole.

"Optus did everything it could to get it back online as quickly as possible," Ms Mills said.

Tweed Chamber of Commerce President Michael Tree said he was not contactable and could not use the internet before 3.30pm.

"Things like that are an absolute nightmare," Mr Tree said.

"The expense was massive and the inconvenience enormous."

Mr Tree, who also works at Tweed City, said the centre's opening day wasn't ruined, but admitted it could have been better.

"You never know how many sales you lost," he said.

Rumours circulated throughout the Tweed as to the cause of the outage before Optus finally confirmed the pipe-laying accident. They varied from crashed satellites to terrorist attacks, but luckily the reality was nothing quite as dramatic.

Mr Sutherland said a completely unrelated south-east Queensland network incident on Monday night that affected a back-up link had also contributed to the problem.

"We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience this has caused them," Mr Sutherland said.

The electronic check-in and baggage handling at Brisbane's international and domestic terminals went offline, delaying flights for up to an hour, but the Gold Coast airport was not affected.

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