Delays in fixing phone landlines and improving mobile coverage put people at risk and cost businesses money

At the last meeting of Liverpool Plains Shire Council’s (LAG) Community Advisory Group (CAG) the representatives from the individual community Local Advisory Groups (LAG) related dismaying stories regarding unreliable mobile phone services and poor response times when reporting outages of landline and internet services to Telstra. They said their communities needed reliable telecommunications for safety reasons, to ensure help can be obtained rapidly for medical emergencies and for individuals and businesses to conduct their normal day to day operations.

Convenor of the Spring Ridge LAG, Vicki Donnelly, said recently, phone/internet services in the area were out for 2 weeks and that while they were down people couldn’t access Wi-Fi assist to boost their already poor mobile phone service. She said one elderly resident had to leave his home to stay with friends during the outage as his mobile service doesn’t work inside his house, he found it difficult to go outside at night and was worried he’d be unable to call an ambulance if required.

“Apart from the inconvenience to individuals, businesses were also greatly affected. Customers could not be contacted; internet banking was unavailable and eftpos couldn’t be used costing the local economy dearly. I personally had to drive 6km towards Quirindi to get enough mobile service on the side of the road to call customers/suppliers, Telstra about the outage and to access emails and internet banking on a laptop.

“What was more galling was the fact that Telstra did not allow individuals to log a general outage meaning each resident was required to report their own problem. Then, technicians were sent out to fix individual phone lines not the problem that the whole village was experiencing. Eventually, through frustration I called the local member Kevin Anderson’s office and amazingly the phones were fixed within an hour of contact. Why couldn’t Telstra fix the problem in an hour based on reports from the community instead of putting us through all this inconvenience and cost,” Vicki said.  

Mike Lomax, Werris Creek LAG convenor, said the area had issues with mobile phones coverage over the Christmas/New Year period and there had been specific reports of landline outages which also take out the Internet connection.

“In one case, a 92 year old man who relies solely on landline for outgoing calls was told it could be 2 weeks before his landline was repaired. Action only took place after a visit to the Telstra Business Centre in Tamworth. When they were told it was required in need of a medical emergency the line was repaired in 24 hours. In another case, it took 2 weeks for an aged person with dementia to get their line fixed. Many people also have complaints about download speeds,” Mike said.

Regarding the Blackville area LAG convenor Richard Burns said mobile phone coverage in the area is unreliable at best. He said there are numerous black spots where no coverage is available at any time and other areas where service is at best intermittent. 

“The community feels a repeater tower, or a booster of some sort would be a huge help, primarily for safety reasons but also because local primary producers now operate in a global market and need to be able to access information and transact business quickly and reliably.  

“Granted, we are a relatively isolated community but is it too much to expect, in this modern age, telecommunications that let us do what we need to do on par with other parts of Australia and the world,” Richard said.      

LPSC Mayor, Councillor Andrew Hope, said on an almost daily basis he heard stories of problems regarding telecommunications’ services, or in some cases lack thereof, and it was time the companies responsible paid more than lip service to people’s concerns and lifted their game to better meet the community’s expectations

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