Business owners and residents in South Australia’s Riverland region are pleading for more reliable internet and phone coverage after a series of Telstra outages.
- Telstra says the outage is not indicative of a broader service issue
- A Riverland businessman estimates he lost about 15 hours of work when his phone went down
- The government’s report on the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review is expected soon
Town of Loxton, 187 kilometres north-east of Adelaide, experienced a two-day service dropout that left businesses unable to function.
Dan Gilgen runs a gardening and maintenance business that relies heavily on phone and internet connection.
“I actually have missed three opportunities the last two days because I couldn’t get back to anyone,” he said.
Mr Gilgen said he risked losing five hours of work for every missed call.
“Being a small family business, we rely on every job that we can get,” he said.
Loxton resident Michelle Ryder works from home as a support assessor, helping to provide services to older Australians in their homes.
When the phone lines went down this week, Ms Ryder could not reach her clients and had to make an emergency request for an assessor outside of the Riverland to take her calls.
“For an aged person who’s waiting for that call … if I hadn’t had been able to get in contact with my work via my NBN, then those clients would have thought we had just left them,” she said.
Telstra regional general manager Michael Patterson said the outage began on Monday due to a hardware issue affecting mobile services and was fixed on Wednesday.
Two weeks ago phone lines went down in the nearby town of Pinnaroo, in the Mallee region, but Telstra said the outage in Loxton was an isolated incident and there was no broader service issue occurring.
‘Connectivity helps regional business grow’
Business SA policy and advocacy director Kendall Crowe said consistent access to communications was essential for the survival of regional businesses.
“Here in 2022 there is no reason why we shouldn’t all have ubiquitous access to the essential communications services that are needed to undertake business in the Riverland,” she said.
In its biennial Regional Voice survey in 2020 Business SA heard 53 per cent of Riverland businesses were either dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied with their mobile coverage.
The overall regional dissatisfaction rate was 40 per cent.
Six per cent more Riverland businesses were connected to the NBN than the general regional SA population.
Thirty-seven per cent of those Riverland businesses were either dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied with their NBN service.
This year the federal government is expected to table a report on the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review that wrapped up in December.
The review heard submissions from people and organisations around regional, rural and remote Australia regarding the impacts of network connectivity.
In a statement, Regional Communications Minister Bridget McKenzie said the federal government understood the importance of reliable telecommunications for all Australians.
Ms McKenzie said “connectivity helps regional business grow”, and that phone and internet connections created jobs and helped people in regional Australia to work remotely.