Australian fixed-line operator TPG Telecom has been fined A$400,000 ($375,000) for failing to ensure customers who had not paid their bills could still use the nation's emergency call number 000.
Telecom regulator ACMA said it had initiated an investigation after a call to emergency services could not be placed for a person in need of urgent medical attention. The individual later died in hospital.
ACMA took the case to federal court, where a judge criticized TPG for the incident, noting that “TPG’s failure could easily have led to the death of a person who might otherwise have been saved.”
During the probe, ACMA determined that during a six-month period in 2011, end-users of 5,979 home telephone services without sufficient credit balance did not have access to 000. During the period, 193 calls were placed to emergency services from these services, and none connected.
TPG blamed an error in a software upgrade to one of its systems for the breach, and rolled out a correction as soon as the company became aware of the error six months later.
Australian telecom law requires all providers of end-user fixed and mobile phone services to ensure that its networks give the user access to emergency call services wherever it is technically feasible.
During the trial, TPG admitted it had contravened one provision of this law by failing to ensure that its controlled networks gave the affected end-users access to 000.
But the ISP argued that it had not contravened another provision on the grounds that it was not supplying standard telecom services to the customers at the time the 193 calls were made.