Conroy launches Warrnambool exchange fire inquiry

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Conroy launches Warrnambool exchange fire inquiry

To examine mitigation strategies, community impact.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has called a surprise inquiry into the Warrnambool exchange fire in a bid to identify "what lessons can be learnt".

The inquiry, to be conducted by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), will include a public forum to hear from impacted telecommunications users.

It is also expected to look at the effectiveness of fire prevention and mitigation strategies at the exchange, as well as "disaster recovery and service continuity planning for telecommunications infrastructure".

"A fire of this type is infrequent, but given how important telecommunications infrastructure is for the day-to-day lives of all Australians, an inquiry is appropriate," Conroy said in a brief statement.

"I want to hear the views of the affected communities and relevant experts to ensure that disaster mitigation and service recovery plans are as effective as possible if similar events were to occur in the future."

A Telstra spokesman told iTnews the company would cooperate with the inquiry.

"We understand the seriousness of the situation for our customers and agree a detailed review is needed," the spokesman said.

Telstra will also conduct its own internal inquiry, which it intends to feed into the Government process.

"The far-reaching operational review will be led by Telstra's director of fixed and data access engineering David Piltz, one of Telstra's most experienced network executives," the spokesman said.

"The review will assess Telstra's prevention measures, business continuity and recovery planning, as well as the tactical response to restoring services.

"As part of the review Telstra will also engage an independent expert to assess and report on the situation."

The spokesman again apologised to customers that have been impacted by the fire.

The fire, which occurred at approximately 4.30am on Thursday November 22, knocked out services for over 60,000 residents of Warrnambool and surrounds.

The exchange sustained damage to about 60 percent of the building, though the main distribution frame (MDF) was spared.

Telstra has teams of technicians working around the clock to repair the damage and initiate temporary service restoration.

It is close to restoring full mobile coverage and is progressively reconnecting landlines, either by "re-parenting" sub-exchanges to South Melbourne or through the use of mobile exchanges on wheels (MEOWs).

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