Horror Optus outage reveals disturbing truth about Australia

How did we ever survive before we carried phones with us everywhere?


Optus customers had a horror moment when we saw "SOS" blinking back at us from our phones this morning, before the awful reality hit — we'd lost internet access and we couldn't make or receive calls.

Hospitals, businesses, transport systems and government services were thrown into chaos, small businesses were forced to close, online banking was offline for millions and the morning commute was turned into an even bigger debacle than usual, with major delays and disruption.

The fact so much of our country can shut down over a telco outage reveals a disturbing truth about our culture and speaks volumes about how much technology rules our lives.

Optus outage message; Customers at Optus store
Up to 10 million Aussies received an outage alert in their Optus apps today. Source: Supplied, Getty

Amid the mayhem, there were reports some savvy businesses went "old school" and started accepting payments in paper money but seriously, who carries cash around these days?

It's incredible how in just over three decades, we've gone from never having heard of the internet or owning a mobile phone, to being completely reliant on our devices to the point where having no network coverage is almost akin to having a severed limb.

I fear to think what this means for the future if one's entire world can come crashing down at the loss of a 5G signal.

The moment I realised just how much we depend on our mobiles came during the morning school run when I was dropping my youngest daughter off 10 minutes late and was unable to call the office. I had to rattle the locked metal gate and frantically wave in the hope a teacher walked past and saw my panicked expression.

Seven hours after the connection was lost around 4am this morning, Optus boss Kelly Bayer Rosmaris told ABC Sydney she was "really, really sorry" the unprecedented outage had occurred. She also said there was no indication cyber-terrorists had hacked the network, but let's face it, that's where most people's minds leapt to. It's scary to think how helpless we'd be in the face of such an attack.

From paying bills to buying groceries, contacting emergency services, catching public transport or being able to speak to loved ones, it's clear our beloved smartphones now have the power over us, not the other way around.

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