As the first snows fall upon the alpine village of Thredbo, business owners and residents live daily in mortal fear that a ravenous wombat will gnaw through the single fibre optic line between themselves and the rest of humanity.
Pictures obtained by Computerworld show the state of the Snowy's telecommunications infrastructure so decrepit that it is, quite literally, lying on the side of the road after last year's bushfires that ravaged their way through the Alpine National Park and Canberra. Wombats, as local drivers will attest, enjoy a feed along the side of the road which graziers know as 'the long paddock'.
The result has been a bitter battle between the MP for Eden Monaro Gary Nairn, the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service and Telstra with local businesses caught in the middle.
“I would remind the NSW government that this is the only line of communication to Thredbo including mobile phones and emergency services.
Snow has already started falling in the area. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out what problems could be created with the line exposed on the side of the road," an angry Nairn told Computerworld.
The delays are understood to centre on protracted negotiations between NSWPWS and Telstra over insurance liabilities connected with running the new cable underground rather than overground – primarily the amount that Telstra may be liable for in the event of damage or disaster caused by their equipment or activities. Last year Sydney Water was forced to pay compensation to southern Sydney residents whose houses were destroyed after workman repairing a pipe accidentally started a bushfire in the Royal National Park.
Comms outages are nothing new to Snowy residents and businesses. Earlier this year Computerworld revealed that power generator Snowy Hydro had repeatedly been forced onto emergency communications back-up systems just to maintain operations due to the single cable from Canberra to Cooma being knocked out by everything from cars to wayward backhoes.
Computerworld has confirmed that the power generator is not affected by the current threat of wombat activity, and a specific, wombat-related network attack is yet to be confirmed.