Up to 60 small business owners in Hume are threatening a class action against Telstra after losing their internet connections, causing them to lose trade for more than a week and leaving them with angry customers.
Their payroll was disrupted, customer bookings were lost, building supplies disrupted, car repairs stalled, and overseas export negotiations broke down.
Desperate owners scrambled for other options to retrieve and send information. They want compensation and say Telstra showed no urgency, and was not proactive in getting their businesses back online.
National Mail and Marketing business manager Mike Steele said the internet dropped out on Thursday, September 24.
"After ringing around, we found it was not just us, it was the whole of Hume. We contacted Telstra. They said it would be up and running by the Friday, which it wasn't. Those promises continued and continued up until last Thursday, when they said, 'Yes it will be up by Friday at 6pm, we've had to order a part, the part is on its way'."
Coming at the end of the month and during the school holidays, the disruption to communications left many businesses reeling. Some were told the fault was at Jerrabomberra Telstra Exchange, while others were told it was a fibre breakdown between Deakin and Jerrabomberra.
In a statement, Telstra said the initial fault, reported on September 25, was repaired on Friday night, October 2. Technicians cross-checked everything at the Jerrabomberra exchange, then worked their way back across the network until they found a fibre problem in the Deakin exchange that fed the Jerrabomberra exchange.
Telstra area general manager Chris Taylor apologised and said staff had tried to restore services as quickly as possible.
"Unfortunately, it proved to be a complex repair operation that was compounded by the intermittent nature of the fault and, as a result, it took some time to identify the main cause of the issue."
Trampoline playground Flip Out spokeswoman Sue Stone said because of the school holidays, losses were heavy.
"Everything is done on the internet for bookings; people pay online for parties.
"I went down to Telstra and bought dongles; we used them up in half an hour. It took them three days to divert my phone to my personal mobile. So, after having serious surgery on September 22 – I had a breast lump removed – I was answering phones in hospital."
Commercial high-rise building supplier Pacific Formwork general manager Graciete Ferreira said the business could not provide time-sensitive information to clients. "Try and tell a builder you are having internet problems and they say, 'Yeah, yeah, another excuse'. They don't believe you," Ms Ferreira said.
Sports drink bottle manufacturer Anton Pemmer, of Bottles of Australia, could not send or receive artwork or proofs, and international negotiations for an export broke down.
"People on the other side of the world don't understand how a whole suburb doesn't have internet connection all of a sudden," Mr Pemmer said.
Ern Smith Building Supplies general manager Tony Carnovale said he might as well have closed up shop, while Peter Schliebs said his mechanical repair business was unable to access its customer data base, look up specifications, spare parts or price lists.
Ben Woods, of AJs Plumbing, said payroll, invoicing, tendering and handing out jobs to 10 people were all disrupted.
Tortured Gum Brewery's Craig McAuliffe said the business's e-commerce site was out of action, they did not know who was booking, nor could they access accounts on the cloud.