Wiping out blackspots

Article image - Wiping out blackspots Mayor Paul Tatchell trying to get a mobile signal. Local governments across Australia are working to eradicate black spots, areas where mobile or broadband coverage is limited, unreliable or in some cases nonexistent.

Mobile coverage advocacy
Colac Otway Shire Council has made a submission to a Federal Government investigation into mobile phone coverage, and will continue to advocate strongly for the community for improved coverage.

Council yesterday endorsed a submission by Chief Executive Officer Rob Small and Mayor Lyn Russell to the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, calling on improved coverage in those areas suffering from poor or non-existent mobile phone access.

Mr Small said Council was honour-bound to ensure that notable mobile coverage black spots in the shire were amended. 

“Indeed the black spots are so extensive that it would be more appropriate to call them black expanses.”

He said critical areas that continue to suffer from gaps in coverage are Cororooke, Gellibrand, Kawarren, Carlisle River, Beeac, Birregurra, Gerangamete and Yeo, and the Cape Otway region.

“There are also seasonal loads on coastal communities during summer which can virtually block out business web contacts in peak summer periods.

“And there are at least 13 areas of more than two kilometres along the Great Ocean Road that have no mobile telephone coverage.”

This comes after Colac Otway Shire called for public input and community feedback to contribute to council’s submission.

Mr Small said the issue related directly to community safety, viability of business enterprises and social connectedness.

Council’s submission has been made to the Ministry’s Mobile Coverage Program Discussion Paper, which has $80 million committed to a mobile network expansion project, and $20 million set to address mobile black spots.

Elements of the Mobile Coverage Program include the improvement of coverage along major transport routes, small communities, in areas that are prone to natural disasters and areas with high demand for services during seasonal holiday periods.

“We have major concerns when it comes to mobile black spots – not least of which includes the ability to communicate in our bush areas during fire danger periods; but also individuals’ ability to access medical aid, and social connectedness,” Mr Small said.

Better mobile coverage
Moorabool Shire Council in Victoria is lobbying the Federal Government and mobile telecommunication providers to get a better deal for local residents living in mobile blackspots.

Moorabool Mayor Councillor Paul Tatchell toured Blackwood, Dale’s Creek, Greendale, Darley, Morrisons and Ballan recently to experience blackspots
first hand.

Cr Tatchell indicated Council would use the information confirmed about mobile coverage in these areas to negotiate with the telecommunications providers and make a submission to the Federal Government’s $100 million mobile coverage program for more telecommunications infrastructure.

“In this day and age, people expect to be able to contact others when needed – I mean some of these blackspots are a stone’s throw from Melbourne,” Cr Tatchell said.

“If we can convince the Federal Government to build some mobile infrastructure in our shire, it becomes feasible for the commercial operators to provide a mobile service in these areas they have previously ignored.”

Competition for the Federal Government program will be intense however, as approximately 75 percent of the continent is eligible to apply for the funding. Cr Tatchell estimates that will cover about “200- 250 locations Australia-wide.”

Consequently Cr Tatchell doesn’t expect all locations on the Shire’s mobile telecommunication priority list to be funded by the Federal Government Programme, but is encouraged by the support of other stakeholders regarding the importance of improving mobile coverage in the Shire.

“Everywhere I go, all levels of government seem more aware of the urgency of getting mobile coverage to places like Blackwood, so the lobbying by council and the community is starting to take effect. We must seize this funding opportunity before it goes.”

Now is the perfect time for locals with mobile coverage issues to contact the Federal Government with the location of the issue.

“Submissions close at the end of February. It takes only a minute to call or email the Federal Government and get on the map that they will use to choose the locations for infrastructure. The sheer weight of calls from our locations can only reinforce Council’s submission.”