Lining up for better times

April 07, 2018

Katunga farmer Daryl Hoey believes the mobile serive issue should have been addressed far sooner.

Mobile phone coverage is set to improve in Katunga and Gunbower with a Telstra station due to be built before June next year.

But Katandra West appears to still be kept on hold.

The successful towns were identified as ‘‘priority locations’’ more than 18 months ago. It was announced this week they had received funding as part of the Federal Government’s $220million Mobile Black Spot Program.

But Katunga farmer Daryl Hoey believes the issue should have been addressed far sooner.

‘‘It should have never come to this,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s about time we’re getting better mobile service.’’

Mr Hoey said he had difficulties on the farm with mobile service dropping in and out, rendering reception as unreliable.

‘‘It’s just really frustrating having poor service,’’ he said and added it was particularly irritating when sending SMS messages and trying to complete internet banking. He said in recent weeks coverage was far better in the town, using Optus as a telecommunications service provider.

Mr Hoey was also critical of the time it would take to install the macro base stations, which had a typical coverage radius of 5km to 32km.

‘‘I can’t believe a thing like that is going to take so long between the announcement and for something to happen on the ground,’’ Mr Hoey said.

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said he was optimistic the stations might be completed sooner, following the funding announcement.

‘‘These communities have had inadequate phone services for far too long. Regional communities should not be given sub-par services compared to our city counterparts,’’ he said.

‘‘Reliable communications are imperative to everyone who lives in the country, particularly those on farmland. Good mobile reception can provide improved safety and productivity for a range of people who rely on mobile reception for their communications.’’

Mr Drum said the funding came after the Coalition’s 2016 election commitment to improve mobile coverage.

In February, State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed voiced grave concerns over what poor connectivity in Katandra West and Katunga could mean in the event of an emergency.

Ms Sheed had said inadequate mobile reception in Shepparton district towns was just not acceptable, that it was a safety issue and might be affecting the welfare of communities.

Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan yesterday weighed in on the new funding, arguing the Victorian Government’s calls for better coverage were going ‘‘straight to message bank’’.

In January, the Victorian Government announced it was turning its back on the Federal Government’s mobile black spot program to instead put funding into its own towers.

In a thinly veiled barb, the Victorian Government had at the time committed to instead choosing mobile tower locations ‘‘based on merit and necessity, rather than political interests’’.

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said the state government must guarantee the money withdrawn from the Commonwealth program ‘‘would actually go to country Victoria’’.

The Committee for Greater Shepparton in January said whichever tier of government was best placed to provide reliable mobile phone coverage to poorly connected communities in Greater Shepparton should lead the way with it.

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