Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fiji - 3-hour outage of telecoms caused by an inter-operator dispute closed the main international airport

[fiji times] A THREE-hour Internet outage brought the country almost to a stop yesterday as disconnected telecommunication provider Telecom Fiji Limited disputed its approximately $300,000 bill with international gateway provider FINTEL.

"The disruption of Internet services nationwide crippled critical services, not only for TFL but Fiji. International flights were disrupted, causing delays and other critical services, including banks, were affected. TFL will refer the issue to the Commerce Commission," TFL said in a statement.

FINTEL said "an outstanding account was the key reason for the disconnection notice served to TFL together with a notification to the commission. Furthermore, a further seven days grace period was not honoured and regrettably, the action taken on unpaid accounts."

It added "a very substantial amount owing since the Commerce Commission's June 4th 2010 determination"( when the international market was deregulated).

Commerce Commission chairman Dr Mahendra Reddy said the parties met last week where the issue was raised.

"While TFL was willing to pay the bill, it wanted FINTEL to provide a computation of the bill," he said.

"And with that amount, of course they would want to have the details of the bill. TFL had even wanted to give the money to the commission while waiting for the details of the bill. FINTEL did not say no to that agreement. This morning at 7am they disconnected TFL resulting in the internet outage which affected 40 per cent of TFL customers including government and disrupting essential services," Dr Reddy said.

He added that the action taken by FINTEL was an abuse of its position as the sole gateway provider and had negative impact on the economy. The action, Dr Reddy said, also disrupted TFL's business model and may cause customers to think it was an unreliable provider. He saw this as a serious issue and would be taking some action.

The blackout affected flights to Auckland, Sydney and Korea from Nadi International Airport who were delayed for up to three hours.

Airports Fiji Limited general manager, Lawrence Liew said that during the outage all systems had to be operated manually "seriously affecting check-ins."

Air Pacific said its flights to Brisbane, Sydney, Auckland, Melbourne, Honolulu and subsequent flights to Auckland on Saturday were or would be delayed from between 30 minutes to two hours. The airline's daily flight to Sydney was most affected by the severance of telecommunications, as it departed Nadi 2 hours and 25 minutes behind schedule. Air Pacific planned to do a quick turnaround in Sydney to try to make up for some lost time. Last night's Melbourne and Honolulu flights are also expected to be affected by up to two hours.

Air Pacific's domestic carrier Pacific Sun said the communication link problem had also affected its services, but its shorter flight and turn times allowed it to make up for most of lost time by late afternoon today. Pacific Sun separately confirmed that it had a weather-related cancellation today that was not linked to telecom issues.

Telecom gets disconnected

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