IMDA fines M1 and StarHub $610,000 in total for Internet disruptions during circuit breaker

IMDA has concluded its investigations into StarHub and M1's broadband service disruptions earlier this year.
IMDA has concluded its investigations into StarHub and M1's broadband service disruptions earlier this year.PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two telcos here have been slapped with fines totalling $610,000 for causing Internet service disruptions during the circuit breaker period which affected many Singaporeans working from home or attending home-based learning.

M1 has been issued a financial penalty of $400,000 for broadband service disruptions in May, while StarHub has been issued a penalty of $210,000 for similar disruptions in April.

Announcing this in a release on Sunday (Sept 6), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said that both telcos had contravened the 2016 Code of Practice for Telecommunication Service Resilience.

"In determining the final penalty quantum for each incident, IMDA took into consideration relevant factors such as the duration, impact, and customer service measures adopted by the operators to mitigate impact," IMDA said.

In StarHub's case, the authority said that the disruptions occurred on April 15 when one of the telco's staff made a configuration error during a planned network migration exercise.

IMDA found that the incident, which affected up to 250,000 people, could have been prevented if StarHub had better supervised its staff.

In deciding on the $210,000 penalty, IMDA had considered StarHub's efforts to quickly restore services and its prompt communication and compensation to affected subscribers.

For M1, the authority said that an issue with a corrupted profile database in the telco's broadband network gateway disrupted services for 23 hours from 7am on May 12 to 6am on May 13.

There was also a second M1 disruption on May 13: A software fault occurred in the telco's network equipment, which affected the routing of Internet traffic for some 20,000 subscribers for six hours.

 
 
 

In its investigations, IMDA said the first incident occurred because M1's staff and vendor had not followed prescribed procedures, but added that the telco could not have reasonably foreseen or prevented the second incident, as it was the "first of its kind" for such equipment.

M1 had thus breached regulations for the first incident and not the second one, said IMDA. It added that in determining the $400,000 penalty, the authority considered that the disruption lasted almost a full day, which caused significant inconvenience to affected subscribers.

IMDA also factored in M1's compensation efforts to affected subscribers following the incident.

On Sunday, M1 apologised for the inconvenience caused by the disruptions and thanked customers for their patience and understanding. It said its top priority is to extend all possible support to customers impacted by the incident, and will be investing in a cloud-based call centre platform that can manage increased call loads and lower response time.

StarHub said it regretted the disruptions in its service and noted that it has since implemented additional measures to prevent such an incident from happening again. 

IMDA's deputy chief executive, Ms Aileen Chia, said that it takes 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. She added that IMDA will take firm and decisive action to safeguard its consumers' interests.

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

"We will continue to work with operators to strengthen network resilience and improve customer communications."