Bill Lang radio interview on 3AW with Tony Moclair

Bill Lang, Executive Director of Small Business Australia, joins Tony Moclair to discuss the severe impact of the Optus outage on millions of small businesses across Australia. Lang emphasises the need for a contingency plan in the face of unreliable internet services, urging businesses to have alternatives for office and mobile connections. As the fallout unfolds, the discussion sheds light on the vulnerability of businesses relying on a single provider and underscores the importance of proactive measures in the ever-evolving landscape of internet reliability.

Radio transcript.

Tony Moclair  00:00

Bill Lang is Executive Director, Small Business Australia, you don’t have an economy without small business. It’s as simple as that. Bill. Good afternoon.

Bill Lang  00:13

Good day, Tony,

Tony Moclair  00:15

Bill, give us a scale of the impact for your members.

Bill Lang  00:19

Yeah well I think we’ve got a couple of million small businesses across Australia Tony, and it’s about 5 million Australians that work in them and depend upon them being able to operate to communicate with customers, collect cash and of course, these days, you know, without a reliable internet service and a reliable telephone service and reliable payment systems. You can’t communicate with customers, you can’t collect cash from them. And so therefore, many, many businesses that have been relying upon Optus are in a lot of trouble today.

Tony Moclair  00:47

Do you regard Optus as the worst of the ISPs or at the end of the day do they all roughly come out equal?

Bill Lang  00:55

Look it’s not something that I’ve got any empirical data on with respect to them. But we must remember that the NBN itself is a federal government owned, you know, monopoly utility.

Tony Moclair  01:07


Bill Lang  01:07

And that all of the retail ISPs connecting the up from the NBN perspective on that government owned monopoly. So that’s on that side. The mobile phone networks, of course, are very different some of 5g, some of 4g, and many cases, they get shared. But I couldn’t make a comment either way, Tony, but one important thing that every business owner is now learning is, you’ve got to have a Plan B with respect to your office connection, your home connection, your mobile connection and your ability to take payments. And so you’ve got to have, it’s no good trying to get Plan B organised when Plan A is the only thing you had, and it’s out.

Tony Moclair  01:43

Do you foresee something like a class action lawsuit on behalf of your members? Or do, can you imagine, let’s say if you don’t instigate that, do you think small businesses acting of their own accord will?

Bill Lang  01:55

It’s not the sort of thing that Small Business Australia gets involved with but I’ve already had two messages come through from class action law firms this morning wanting to have a call and have a conversation. So yeah, those guys work on success. If they can, they can see $1 there’ll be chasing the ambulance, Tony.

Tony Moclair  02:13

I think we all know that, we’ve all seen Better Call Saul, we know how they operate. So what would you advise then your members to do is just to take the rest of the day off or develop some sort of workaround?

Bill Lang  02:18

Well, look, we’ve already heard from business owners that have gone out and got themselves a prepaid SIM card that’s on another network. So at least they’ve been able to get some connectivity via mobile phones. Some are already rocking up with places like Officeworks and getting a modem that will automatically switch to, you know, 5g mobile phone, if the NBN goes down but, look, a lot of people will be reflecting on the impact of this. But in the internet world, Tony, nothing is guaranteed, nothing is 100% always going to be up. So you really got to be a bit more proactive and have a fire break in place. And that fire break is having your Plan B already organised. A prepaid SIM card, you can use, another NBN provider and certainly these days, point of sale on your mobile phone, they call it SoftPos. So if your major payment platform goes down, you can automatically get your customers, you know, paying via a SoftPos on your mobile phone in your shop.

Tony Moclair  03:20

There’s a word I did not expect to add to my vocabulary today. SoftPos, and we’d only get it from Bill Lang, Executive Director, Small business Australia. Go well, Bill, thank you for your time.

Bill Lang  03:30

Yeah, thanks a lot, Tony. Great to hear during the daylight hours, mate.

Tony Moclair  03:33

Good man. Thank you, Bill. Appreciate it