Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Coverage failures common to district, says business owner

A lack of phone and internet coverage over the Southern 80 weekend was not an isolated incident, according to a Torrumbarry business owner.

ASHLEA KUNOWSKI February 19, 2013 4:30am

Crowds, emergency services and organisers at the 2013 Southern 80 struggled to find phone and internet reception over the weekend.

The Southern 80 phone coverage black out was not an isolated incident, a Torrumbarry business owner says.

Greg Callaway said residents in Torrumbarry and surrounding districts had lost their internet and mobile phone coverage during the past three events.

‘‘The wireless network seems over-subscribed,’’ he said.

He said the interruption was a great inconvenience which affected his two businesses.

‘‘Everything I do in the business has to do with the internet,’’ he said.

‘‘I look up parts ... I get manuals.’’

Importantly, he said the loss of coverage was not limited to Southern 80 weekends.

‘‘We are in this position every big weekend or event,’’ he said.

Mr Callaway, who unsuccessfully ran for Campaspe Shire council at the last election, could not understand how the shire continued to promote tourism in the region without making sure there were sufficient services available.

‘‘The Campaspe Shire seems to want to promote tourism ... but they’re not supporting the upgrade of services to promote the influx,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to provide city services, not small town services.’’

Campaspe Shire’s service executive manager Paul McKenzie said the Emergency Management Planning Committee wrote to Telstra expressing concern at the communications coverage.

‘‘Telstra responded to the group advising the three towers supporting Echuca were in the process of being upgraded, increasing capacity by 60 per cent,’’ he said.

‘‘Council also worked with the (Moama Water Sports) club and Telstra to allow the installation of a temporary mobile base station at Victoria Park for the 2013 event.’’

The mobile base station, known as a Cell On Wheels, failed Saturday morning and was not repaired until Saturday evening.

Telstra apologised in Wednesday’s Riverine Heraldfor the malfunction.

Mr Callaway said it was not just for business reasons that improved service to the area was necessary, but also for safety.

On more than one occasion, Mr Callaway has used his property as a reference point for police and ambulance when the phone lines have stopped working.

He said any attempts to contact Telstra had resulted in trying to resolve the issue with off-shore call centres.

‘‘That doesn’t fix the problem,’’ he said.

The Moama Water Sports Club has said it would engage with Telstra about the lack of service for future events.

At tomorrow’s council meeting, Mr Callaway will call on Campaspe Shire Council to prevent future phone services congestion through talks with Telstra.

But Mr McKenzie has said council’s event application requires an Emergency and Risk Assessment Plan to be completed and emergency services would make further contact with Telstra to improve services.

‘‘The focus... (will be) ensuring that coverage is maintained for any emergency,’’ he said.

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