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Fibre fury: 26 hours off the grid

Rose Kessler and Megan Brown at the Kuripuni Lotto and Post Shop say the Spark outage meant a lot of people missed out on tickets for the Wednesday Lotto draw. PHOTOS/TOM TAYLOR

Spark customers had to cope without internet for more than 24 hours after roadworks sliced through Chorus fibre in Hawke’s Bay on Wednesday afternoon.

Spark reported internet outages from Gisborne to Carterton, with customers as far south as Featherston affected. Spark’s mobile and landline services were unaffected during the outage.

Chorus external communications manager Holly Cushen said the outage started at about 1.25pm on Wednesday when roading contractors cut a Chorus cable.

“This event impacted service to over 6000 Spark customers,” Cushen said.

The outage was resolved by about 2.15pm on Thursday.

Cushen said the length of time taken to resolve the issue was partly due to standing down technicians overnight due to health and safety concerns, technician fatigue, and traffic management requirements for work on the state highway.

Road realignment work was under way on State Highway 2 from Te Hauke to Otane, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency website. The work was scheduled to end on June 1.

The outage occurred when a Chorus fibre was cut on SH2 in Otane, between Hastings and Waipukurau.

Vodafone and 2Degrees customers were unaffected by the cut.

“This is because the cable is made up of multiple fibres and the one that was damaged happened to be the one carrying Spark traffic,” Spark spokeswoman Samantha Smith said.

Spark said the cut to the fibre had caused issues for some Spark broadband customers across Gisborne, Napier, Carterton, and Masterton. However, the Times-Age spoke to customers in Greytown and Featherston who had also been affected by the outage.

Ben Morgan and Kimmy Charters of Greytown were pleased with Spark’s handling of the outage.

Greytown resident Ben Morgan said he had not realised the extent of the outage at first.

“I thought our internet was out, so I went on the Spark website on my phone,” Morgan said. “It said Hastings and Napier [were affected], and I thought, ‘well, that’s not us’.”

Morgan had assumed the outage was limited to his home, and rang Spark, who told him it was a problem with his modem. However, he soon found that many of his neighbours had the same problem.

Spark eventually gave Morgan 20 gigabytes of data to use on his phone while his home wi-fi was down.

“We haven’t been too affected, and they have been quite helpful about it,” Morgan said.

Some businesses had less luck.

“It affected us big time because of Lotto,” Kuripuni Lotto and Post Shop worker Rose Kessler said. “The Strike had to go, and we couldn’t sell any tickets because we were down.”

Lotto’s Strike draw had rolled over to $1 million on Wednesday night, meaning it had to be won. But with internet down, many Masterton customers missed out.

“It’s a huge loss to Lotto,” manager Megan Brown said. “It was a bit of an issue last night, but you can’t do too much, can you?”

Brown had to close the store early on Wednesday, with customers unable to pay by Eftpos.

Mobil Kuripuni manager Ross Dorrian had to turn many customers away while Eftpos at the petrol station was down.

Mobil Kuripuni worker Ross Dorrian had put signs out at the petrol pumps to let people know they would have to pay with cash.

However, Dorrian said that people did not read the signs, so he spent the morning running from the store out to cars as they pulled up.

“It was just mad rushing in and out, in and out, telling everyone.”

Dorrian said he was unable to sell many items including phone top-ups while the internet was down.

“We’re so reliant on it. Somebody cuts a cable, and suddenly half the country can’t run. It’s ridiculous.”

According to the Chorus website, 580,000 New Zealand homes are connected to fibre, with 80 per cent of its fibre roll-out completed.

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