Possible arson link to Telstra 000 outage

A NATIONWIDE Telstra outage that left millions unable to dial triple-0 could have been caused by arson, investigators believe.

The May 4 outage was initially blamed on a lightning strike at a cable pit in rural New South Wales.

But NSW Rural Fire Services investigators have ruled out lightning and are probing whether a fire was intentionally lit.

RFS chief superintendent Ben Millington told the Herald Sun that Bureau of Meteorology data had debunked the lightning theory.

"A comprehensive investigation was undertaken, which involved a thorough scene examination and speaking to residents, Telstra workers and electrical workers," he said.

"At this stage we have been unable to determine the cause of the fire (but) we've been able to eliminate all causes with the exception of electrical infrastructure or arson."

The outage blocked access to triple-0 phone services for up to 10 hours in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.

And there were reports EFTPOS machines and traffic lights in Victoria were affected.

At the time of the outage, Telstra tweeted a photo of a burnt cable pit.

"Significant fire damage consistent with lightning strike. We're working to restore services ASAP," the telco wrote.

Supt Millington said the fire did not start inside the pit, located east of Orange.

"Based on the scene, the evidence and the burn patterns, the fire started near the pit and moved towards it," he said.

The findings come during a horror month for Telstra, which suffered another outage on May 20 that left millions of customers unable to use their data or voice services.

The fault disrupted EFTPOS machines across the country, with hundreds of businesses forced to turn cashless customers away.

Dozens of dangerous criminals went off the grid after their ankle bracelets stopped working.

And on May 1 a similar outage blocked thousands of Telstra customers from making phone calls.

Mr Millington said a copy of his report was handed to police and Telstra.

A spokesman for the telco said cable damage was a constant threat.

"We operate millions of kilometres of fibre cables around Australia and these are subject to a number of risks of damage every day, including cuts by construction work, weather, vandalism and fire," he said.

"These risks are top of mind when we design our network and we build in redundancy for key services and routes in case of a cable cut.

"We will consider the findings of the (RFS) as part of our review and response to the (outage)."


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