StarHub & M1 Fined $610,000 For ‘Circuit Breaker’ Internet Faults, IMDA Stresses Need For Good Service

StarHub & M1 Fined $610,000 For ‘Circuit Breaker’ Internet Faults, 288,000 Customers Affected In Total

During the ‘Circuit Breaker’, the Internet became an even more essential service.

For those whose social lives totally vanished, Zoom calls with family and friends and bingeing on Netflix were the only things keeping them sane.

For those working from home, the Internet was obviously the most important tool for keeping in touch with bosses, colleagues and clients.

So when the Internet went down for hours in 3 incidents during the ‘Circuit Breaker’, thousands of people in Singapore were literally cut off from the world.

That’s why StarHub and M1 have been fined a total of $610,000 for Internet disruptions during this period.

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Telcos breached Code of Practice

In a media release on Sunday (6 Sep), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said both telecommunications service providers had breached the Code of Practice for Telecommunication Service Resilience 2016.

Thus, it fined StarHub $210,000, and fined M1 a princely sum of $400,000 for their respective service disruptions.

IMDA said it took into account the duration and impact of the disruptions, as well as the customer service provided by the telcos during the incidents, to decide how much to fine them.


StarHub’s 5-hour disruption on 15 Apr

On 15 April, 9 days into the ‘Circuit Breaker’, StarHub customers experienced a break in their Wi-Fi service for almost 5 hours.

Up to 250,000 customers were affected.

The telco communicated this in a Facebook post, advising customers to reboot their modems.

According to IMDA, the incident was caused by a “configuration error” made by a StarHub staff during network migration.

The IMDA attributed the error to staff needing better supervision during the undertaking.

StarHub had prompt communication with customers

However, IMDA also noted that StarHub had tried to get the Internet back up as quickly as possible.

It also communicated promptly with customers, and provided compensation to them swiftly.

Thus, it took these factors into consideration when deciding to fine the telco $210,000.


M1’s 23-hour disruption on 12 May

In the 2nd incident, M1’s broadband Wi-Fi was disrupted in the early morning of 12 May, more than a month into the ‘Circuit Breaker’.

The outage started at 7am, and M1 followed it up with a Facebook post about an hour later.

However, it wasn’t until 6am on 13 May that the problem was fully solved, leaving about 18,000 affected customers without the Internet for almost 1 whole day.

According to the IMDA, the reason for the massive outage was a “corrupted profile database” in the telco’s Broadband Network Gateway.

This happened because M1 staff and its vendor didn’t follow prescribed procedures, IMDA added.


M1’s 6-hour disruption on 13 May

Incredibly, just hours after the 1st disruption was rectified on 13 May, the Internet went down again that same day.

This time, 20,000 customers were affected, and they had their broadband down for about 6 hours.

IMDA said the 2nd incident occurred due to a “software fault in M1’s network equipment”.

This had an impact on the routing of Internet traffic, it said.

From M1’s Facebook post on the 2 incidents, which was updated over the 2 days, we can see the timings of the service disruptions.


M1 in the clear for 2nd incident

While the 1st incident was blamed on M1, the 2nd incident wasn’t its fault, said the IMDA.

The authority said the telco couldn’t have predicted that it would happen, and thus wouldn’t have been able to avoid it.

In fact, the software fault that caused the disruption was “first of its kind for such equipment”, IMDA added.

Thus, while M1 contravened the Code for the 1st incident, it didn’t contravene it for the 2nd incident.

M1 offered compensation to customers

In determining the fine of $400,000 for M1 over the 2 incidents, IMDA took into account some factors.

One of the factors was that the duration of the 1st incident was almost 1 day, and “significant” inconvenience was caused to customers.

However, it also noted that M1 had proactively offered compensation to customers.

To make up for the disruptions, the telco offered affected customers a 1-week rebate off their bill for the month of June.


IMDA stresses need for good service

In the statement, IMDA deputy chief executive Aileen Chia also stressed the need for telcos to provide good service.

She when incidents happen, operators must rectify them as soon as possible, and communicate properly with customers. They must also provide those affected with sufficient service recovery measures.

IMDA takes a “serious view” of service lapses by telcos, it added.

This is especially during the ‘Circuit Breaker’, when many Singaporeans were working and studying from home.

Hence, IMDA will take “firm and decisive action” over service lapses to protect customers, it said.

Hopefully serious disruptions won’t happen again

Those affected by Internet outages know the frustration that comes when you’re stuck at home and can’t get in touch with the outside world.

Thus, we’re hoping that such serious disruptions won’t happen again.

However, we can trust that even if they do, with IMDA watching the telcos involved will work to communicate better with affected customers, and do their best to get everything up and running again.

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