Over the last few days, we’ve had many more questions than is normal about the performance internet from Telstra customers – both home broadband and mobile – so let’s try and break down what is going on.

Some time last week, we believe around Wednesday evening there was an issue with Telstra’s undersea cable connection.  This is an actual cable laying on the bottom of the ocean which physically connects Australia to the rest of the world.

What was that problem?  Well – we don’t know.  Telstra aren’t being that specific.

CEO Andy Penn told me on Friday that the problem originally affected International Roaming Customers, and it was after that when the engineers trying to resolve the issue that things went downhill.

Let’s use the tried and tested “freeway” analogy.

Imagine a 100 lane freeway from Sydney to Los Angeles.

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Whenever you request data from overseas, be it to read a tweet, view a website or watch a TV stream – that requires cars to be sent flying along that freeway to get the info and then flying back to show it to you.

As people started to experience issues last week, Telstra could see from their network status that those cars were getting banked up at each end – there was a problem on the freeway somewhere.

The good news is, there are many hundreds more lanes available – it’s just that Telstra doesn’t have the right to send traffic onto those lanes. 

But they can pickup the phone to the owner of the roadway and get clearance to do so, perhaps even buy more lanes.

It seems that on Thursday evening as they started to put up signs around the roads directing traffic onto the new lanes they basically sent people around and around in circles.  This means huge traffic issues – caused 50% of people’s services to stop working and took hours to get right.

It really is like Sydney traffic when there’s a crash on the harbour bridge.

So, why are Telstra customers still experiencing some issues.

We’ve seen plenty of people, be they ADSL customers, Cable customers and 4G mobile users complaining of slow internet.

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Well, unfortunately for little old Australia – we’re on the other side of the earth – and almost all internet content is actually on computers around the world.  So when you want “internet” there’s a big chance it’s actually using that 100 lane freeway.

Over recent days Telstra engineers have been working on a plan to add more capacity to their network – perhaps another 10 or 20 lanes on that freeway to use our analogy.

So tonight, and again tomorrow night, when your internet is slow, it’s probably because your request for traffic, or the data you requested, is stuck behind a roadworks truck while they paint the lanes on the new road.  They have to test the traffic before they open it up to the general public.  This means while they are out there working on the capacity (adding the lanes) the engineers are taking up a few of the normal lanes, and thus, some people will experience delays.

They say this will be done tomorrow, but given it’s taken them many days so far, we might have to expect some issues until the actual root cause of the problem is found.

That is of course assuming the root cause isn’t simply capacity.  If Telstra is lacking the capacity to handle its customer base and the traffic they are demanding – they’ve got much, much bigger issues.