IMDA hits StarHub and M1 with fines for Internet outages during circuit breaker

Two of Singapore’s biggest Internet service providers, StarHub and M1, have been hit with fines totaling $610,000 from the IMDA for broadband disruptions affecting Singaporeans during the circuit breaker period.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) imposed fines of $210,000 on StarHub and $400,000 on M1 for breaking the 2016 Code of Practice for Telecommunication Service Resilience.

“We take a serious view of any service disruption to public telecommunications services, particularly during the circuit breaker period when most people were working and studying from home, and will take firm and decisive action to safeguard our consumers’ interests,” said Aileen Chia, the IMDA Deputy Chief Executive.

The IMDA determined the financial penalties by considering the duration, impact, and customer service measures adopted by the operators to mitigate impact

“Operators must communicate any service difficulties with their customers and rectify incidents expeditiously, and should provide good service recovery measures to affected customers,” added Ms. Chia.

250,000 StarHub subscribers affected

On April 15, just eight days after the circuit breaker began, StarHub staff made a configuration error during a planned network migration exercise.

The mistake left up to 250,000 StarHub broadband subscribers without sufficient broadband services for close to five hours.

The IMDA concluded the incident could have been prevented if StarHub had better supervised its staff during the migration exercise.

In it’s considerations, IMDA took note of StarHub’s efforts to restore the services as soon as possible, their prompt communication and compensation to those affected with a 20% rebate of their monthly fee for April.

StarHub’s Chief Executive, Peter Kaliaropoulos, said in April they ‘regrettably fell short’ of providing a service experience customers deserve and have implemented measures to prevent future incidents with immediate effect.

Two days of outages for M1 customers

For M1, the broadband provider experienced two incidents on two consecutive days in May.

The first on May 12 affected up to 18,000 customers for 23 hours from 7am until 6am on May 13. This was caused by a corrupted profile database in M1’s Broadband Network Gateway.

A statement by M1 apologies for the inconvenience and said the connectivity issues were triggered by a network bolstering initiative to improve customer experience.

The IMDA found that the incident occured because M1’s staff and vendor had not followed prescribed procedures.

Then, on May 13, up to 20,000 subscribers were affected for six hours after a software fault in M1’s network equipment caused Internet traffic routing problems.

Unlike the first incident, the IMDA concluded that the software fault was the first of its kind for the equipment, which M1 could not have reasonably foreseen or prevented.

The IMDA found M1 to be in breach of the 2016 Code for only the first incident, and determined the $400,000 penalty due to the length of disruption and M1’s proactive compensation of a full one-week refund to affected users.

Ms. Chia said the IMDA will continue to work with operators like StarHub and M1 to strengthen network resiliency and improve customer communications.

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