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November 20, 2023

Optus CEO resigns after huge network outage

Australia’s largest ISP is looking for new leadership after a fault earlier this month left half of the country without internet and users unable to call the emergency services.

By Greg Noone

The chief executive of Optus, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, has announced her resignation in the wake of a 14-hour network outage that cut off ten million Australians from internet access earlier this month. 

Michael Venter, current Optus CFO, will assume Bayer Rosmarin’s responsibilities until a new CEO is found, according to a statement by the telco’s parent company, Singtel.

“Having now had time for some personal reflection, I have come to the decision that my resignation is in the best interests of Optus moving forward,” Bayer Rosmarin said.

An Optus mobile store in downtown Sydney.
An Optus mobile phone store in Sydney, Australia. In response to repeated questions about whether or not she was intent on staying on as the ISP’s CEO, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin finally answered “no” on 20 November. (Photo by Gerry H/Shutterstock)

How the Optus outage downed Australia’s internet

The network fault was caused by a misconfiguration of Optus’ Cisco routers. However, the ISP originally claimed it had arisen after changes to routing information supplied by an international peering network – later revealed to Singtel. In total, 8,500 customers and small businesses have since been in contact with Optus demanding a total of AU$430,000 in compensation, the company said.

Bayer Rosmarin’s resignation comes days after she gave a bruising testimony to an Australian Senate committee about the service interruption. During hearings into the outage last week, the outgoing CEO revealed that 228 of Optus’ customers who attempted to call Australia’s triple zero emergency line during the outage failed to connect their calls. “We absolutely believe that the triple zero system should have worked and it’s critical for all Australians that the system can be relied upon,” Bayer Rosmarin told the committee before revealing that she carries sim cards from rival ISPs Telstra and Vodafone should another outage from her own company take place.

Optus problems come to a head

The outage was the latest serious mishap to befall Optus under Bayer Rosmarin’s leadership. In September 2022, Optus suffered a data breach that saw the personal information of some 9.7 million customers stolen. The hack sparked an intense public debate in Australia about the country’s cyber-defence resilience and criticism of the ISP by the incumbent Labor government. “We should not have a telecoms operator in this country which has effectively left a window open for data of this nature to be stolen,” said the minister for home affairs and cybersecurity, Clare O’Neil, at the time. 

In a statement issued shortly after her resignation, Bayer Rosmarin was praised for her “leadership, commitment and hard work” by Singtel’s chief executive, Yuen Kuan Moon. However, Moon went on to emphasise the need for Optus to regain the trust and confidence of consumers after two major incidents in the space of a year. “Optus’ priority,” said Moon, “is about setting on a path of renewal for the benefit of the community and customers.”

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