Lobbying for better telecommunications

Aurukun Shire Council, a remote Indigenous Cape York Peninsula community, has encouraged residents to lobby State and Federal governments and Telstra to seek funding to upgrade the region’s telecommunications facilities.

Aurukun Shire Council Mayor and officers met with Telstra officials recently in Cairns to discuss a long-term solution for the current major telecommunications problems in the community.

The Shire is located approximately 830km from Cairns and with a population of 1400, is a growth township with housing, community, business and tourism infrastructure being rapidly developed.

The township currently has no ADSL broadband service, and receives its communication services via radio transmission towers, which includes mobile calls, mobile internet and fixed data services.

The current radio transmission equipment can only support a total transmission capacity of 32MB, which Telstra says is five times short of a modern, functional system for a community the size of Aurukun.

Aurukun Mayor Councillor Dereck Walpo said the slow and poor mobile internet connectivity was causing major, negative impacts in
the community.

“In Aurukun, we are experiencing serious phone, internet speed and capacity problems, and we need it fixed as soon as possible.

“Council, government agencies, stakeholders and residents are continually frustrated by this deficiency.

“We are a forward-thinking Council and community, and we have big plans for the future, especially in relation to tourism and business.
“Unfortunately, we’re being held back at the moment by a poor telecommunications service.”

Council is in negotiations with Telstra on how to best upgrade the service.

Cr Walpo said many Aurukun residents had already complained to Telstra about the poor service.

“I know many of my community members who are very frustrated at their lack of a proper internet service.

“For example, numerous people would like to do further education online, but that is impossible.

“Very basic internet usage such as banking is a major chore, while many residents would like to make video calls to family members, but that is also impossible.”

A radio transmission tower at Aurukun currently connects back to a relay tower at Beagle Creek, which connects to a tower at Weipa connected to the main fibre cable running through Cape York back into the core Telstra network.

Council has stated that to improve the transmission at Aurukun, an upgrade of the radio transmission is the most suitable and cost effective solution.

“I am aware of similar issues in other remote Indigenous communities around the Cape, including Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama, Hopevale and Lockhart River, plus parts of the Torres Strait,” said Mayor Walpo.

“In Aurukun, we just want to receive an internet service that is a basic expectation in today’s modern world.”