PORT Fairy has been left off a tentative list of mobile phone black spots despite continuing reception problems for non-Telstra network customers.
Moyne Shire Council mayor James Purcell has revealed the town had not been nominated as a problem area during a visit late last year by the parliamentary secretary to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“We didn’t raise it as a problem because most of the locals use Telstra and the reception is pretty good,” he told The Standard last week.
“It’s the internet connection that desperately needs upgrading.” However, Port Fairy Business Association president Ken Brookes is adamant that phone reception is not up to scratch and is not a good image for the town’s reputation.
“Visitors are constantly amazed at the poor quality of phone and internet service,” he said.
“If you were making a lifestyle move to Port Fairy you’d have to be prepared for a few problems in Port Fairy.
“It can be terrible trying to do e-commerce in the town.
“When the parliamentary inquiry group was here we used the word black spot for phones, television and internet.”
Port Fairy resident Rosemary Arnold said she carried two phones because of the unreliable service and described reception as “pathetic”.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan has released a list of towns in his electorate with poor mobile phone coverage and called for municipal councils to make submissions on priority areas.
He nominated Mirra-natwa, Moonambel and Landsborough for fixing under a $100 million government program and also listed several south-west towns as problem spots including Nelson, Casterton, Dartmoor, Gorea, Mount Richmond, Scotts Creek, Timboon, Port Campbell, Simpson, Noorat, Terang district and Skipton.
“I welcome feedback regarding black spots in Wannon so we can keep our list updated and continue to fight for these to be fixed as soon as possible,” he said.
Special mobile phone booster towers were brought into Port Fairy to cope with the huge spike in demand during the annual Folk Festival in March.
The Standard has been told visiting tradies with non-Telstra phones often had to go to the beach area to get reception.
Cr Purcell said Hawkesdale was officially on top of the council’s list as a phone black spot.
“It’s the internet that is a real problem in Port Fairy,” he said. “For example in my office the service speed drops dramatically in the afternoon when the kids arrive home from school.
“You may as well give up trying to use it, because it’s so slow.”
Great South Coast Group chairman Cr Chris O’Connor who is also Corangamite Shire Council mayor said lobbying must continue for the areas without adequate coverage.
“While 90 per cent of people in our shire have good coverage we can’t forget the 10 per cent which don’t enjoy what should be a basic right,” he said.
“It’s vital in emergencies and if you are a farmer or business operator it can be very difficult to contact customers.
“I advise people in poor coverage areas to contact their local council to lobby on their behalf.”
Cavendish resident and candidate for the forthcoming state elections, Katrina Rainsford, said revenue from the fire services levy should be used to fix black spots.
She claimed federal and state governments had limited their contributions to fixing the problem and local government would be expected to pay the gap.
Cr O’Connor said councils had a role to advocate for better service, not to fund infrastructure.