22 October 2018
Telstra will improve delivery of the Triple Zero emergency call service following an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation.
The ACMA’s investigation into events of 4 May 2018 found that Telstra contravened a rule that requires telecommunications providers to ensure that calls made to Triple Zero using their networks are carried to the operator of the emergency call service. Telstra failed to ensure that some 1,433 calls were carried to the operator as a result of problems triggered by a fire in an inter-state cable pit, which were compounded by network software failures.
‘Triple Zero is the lifeline for Australians in life-threatening or emergency situations. Community confidence in the emergency call service must be maintained,’ said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.
The ACMA has accepted a court enforceable undertaking by Telstra in response to the breach findings. In the undertaking, Telstra has committed to improving the redundancy and diversity of its network, developing new communication protocols to be used in the event of another disruption and benchmarking its systems against international best practice.
‘The actions Telstra has already taken, and is undertaking, will help strengthen the emergency call service and minimise the risk of another disruption to this critical service,’ Ms O’Loughlin said.
As a result of this incident, the ACMA is also reviewing the rules governing the emergency call service to make sure that they are as robust as possible in the context of today’s technologies, and that they impose clear, consistent and appropriate obligations.
‘Given the critical nature of the Triple Zero service, the ACMA takes matters about access to the service very seriously,’ said Ms O’Loughlin. ‘The review will help ensure that the rules for the emergency call service remain current and effective’.
The ACMA’s consultation paper for the review is available—submissions from interested parties are invited by COB, Monday 12 November 2018.
The Triple Zero emergency call service is an operator-assisted telephone service that has been established to connect callers to an emergency service organisation—police, fire or ambulance—in a life-threatening or time critical situation. In 2016–17, there were over 8.5 million to the emergency call service numbers—an average of over 23,500 calls per day.
Under subsection 147(1) of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999, the ACMA has made a written determination, the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009, which imposes requirements on carriers, carriage service providers (CSPs) and the operators of the emergency call service, to ensure the service functions effectively. The ACMA regulates the Triple Zero emergency call service through the Determination. A failure to comply with the Determination is a contravention of subsection 148(1) of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act.
Section 19 of the Determination requires a CSP to ensure that its controlled networks and controlled facilities give an end-user access to emergency call services, unless it is not technically feasible to give the access or a matter beyond the control of the CSP materially and adversely affects the CSP’s technical ability to give the access.
Subsection 22 of the Determination requires a CSP that supplies an emergency telephone service to ensure that a Triple Zero call is carried to the operator of the Triple Zero emergency call service.
The ACMA can accept enforceable undertakings about matters concerning compliance with the Telecommunications Act 1997 and the Telecommunications (Consumer Projection and Service Standards) Act. Information about enforceable undertakings under this legislation is contained in Enforceable undertakings: Guidelines for accepting enforceable undertakings—telecommunications obligations.