NEW England MP Barnaby Joyce has responded to concerns over mobile black spots in the Upper Hunter.
Bunnan resident Paula Stevenson said this week she believed a lack of coverage was “dangerous” if an emergency arose.
“We are only 45 kilometres out of Scone, which is hardly the outback,” she said.
“There is no [mobile phone] tower within cooee of us, although many years ago it was proposed for Bunnan but a local landowner objected,” she said.
“So we rely on our fixed line.
“This, not infrequently, is disrupted as the cable is dragged down the creek when it floods.
“[It] has happened quite a few times lately and it takes Telstra over a week to come and fix it.
“We are in the dangerous situation then if there is an accident on the farm or a medical emergency like a snake bite as we have no way of contacting an ambulance.
“We would like to ask Barnaby Joyce when will all rural regional areas have access to mobile coverage, not as a privilege, but as a much-needed, essential form of communication?
“We are worse off than a third world country.”
Mr Joyce said the government was investing $220 million to fix the issue, with round one of the Mobile Black Spots Program building 499 new or improved phone towers, covering 3000 black spots.
“It should be noted that there have been a large number of submissions by people living in the area seeking support for the installation of a mobile phone tower and, during the campaign, a number of constituents pointed out there was poor mobile coverage outside of the major traffic arteries in the Upper Hunter Shire,” he said.
Mr Joyce added he took these concerns to Canberra in an effort to promote the construction of more towers in the new part of his Electorate.
“The Department of Communications and the Arts is already implementing the three key recommendations which aim to further improve the administration of the program, specifically: establishing minimum thresholds for assessment purposes, implementing a more detailed assessment methodology, and implementing a performance measurement and evaluation framework.”
“In regards to the ANAdf O’s recommendation for setting minimum thresholds, (for example, setting a minimum amount of new coverage to be gained through each tower), the government has always said that the Mobile Black Spot Program had dual purposes – to improve both coverage and competition in regional Australia.
“Both objectives provide benefits to the community, and round one shows the program successfully delivered the government’s policy to improve both coverage and competition – 429 new Telstra base stations and 70 new Vodafone base stations.”
Round two of the Mobile Black Spots Program closed at the end of February and the successful submissions will be announced later this year.
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