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Territory discovers life after phones -

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Territory discovers life after phones

The World Today - Tuesday, 7 April , 2009 12:26:00

Reporter: Margie Smithurst

PETER CAVE: It wasn't Telstra's revenge, but the Northern Territory was cut off from the rest of
Australia this morning, and plunged into the 'dark ages' of telecommunications after an
'unprecedented' Telstra fault interstate.

Residents found they couldn't use their mobiles and doing even the simplest tasks, like getting
money out of an ATM, was a drama.

Margie Smithurst reports from Darwin.

MARGIE SMITHURST: Territorians awoke to a dead signal on their mobile phones this morning and a
headache to get even the simplest tasks done.

According to Telstra, the problem started at around 1:00am in Alice Springs, and then spread north
out in Katherine, Tennant Creek and finally Darwin.

Ringing from Darwin to Alice Springs was impossible and so too was calling interstate.

And mobiles, the Internet and most ATMs were down.

In the Darwin mall, local newsagency staff spent the morning fielding complaints from annoyed

VOX POP 1: Eftpos is down, lotto's down, scratchie machines, Internet, the whole lot.

MARGIE SMITHURST: And how has that affected business this morning?

VOX POP 1: A lot of people only have credit cards on them and don't pay by cash, so...

MARGIE SMITHURST: Banks around town shut their doors.

Martine from East Timor missed her flight and was desperately trying to find an ATM that worked to
get money out to do some sightseeing.

MARTINE: Yeah, I went around town and could not find any and finally I found some at Westpac, so
I'm very happy.

MARGIE SMITHURST: For business used to the ease of email and internet to communicate with their
staff, it was business unusual.

Malu Barrios manages the daily goings-on at the new Darwin Convention Centre and for her it was
communication the old-fashioned way this morning.

MALU BARRIOS: It's not a problem if it can be solved. Think back how it was before technology came
in - that's what came to my mind straight up this morning.

So, yeah, today instead of emailing good morning to everyone I've done my rounds, which is good for
me as well so I see how everyone is keeping at this time of the day.

MARGIE SMITHURST: But local landlines were still working, and an enterprising local ABC Radio
caller used them to save the breakfast show quiz with host, Julia Christensen.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Graeme from Millner has given me a call. Graeme, how lovely to hear from you!

GRAEME: Good morning, um, sorry, good morning Julia.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Now how did you get through? What did you do? You didn't ring the 1300 number,
did you?

GRAEME: I never, ever do, because those lines are national lines, so I've always rung you on the
original 8943 3113 line.

MARGIE SMITHURST: The general manager of Telstra Country Wide in Darwin, Mark Sweet, says he got
out of bed pretty quick smart this morning when he heard what was wrong.

He says the fault was a double transmission failure in remote South Australia and remote Western
Australia very early this morning.

MARK SWEET: I mean I've been here 20 years - this is unprecedented, there's no doubts.

I do know that we have parts being airlifted out to those sites as we speak and technicians

I don't have a restoration time but it effectively has isolated the Northern Territory from the
rest of Australia.

We do have paths out through Queensland that we are looking to patch services through.

PETER CAVE: Telstra's Country Wide general manager Mark Sweet ending that report by Margie