Pleas to end Walcha’s mobile woes

RESIDENTS around the region’s most infuriating mobile phone blackspot have made a fresh plea to authorities to “end the madness”.

The 3500 residents of Walcha have been plagued by poor phone reception for more than two decades and claim it is stymying business growth and jeopardising personal safety.

Their call for more mobile towers comes as NSW Farmers’ this week released survey results revealing 86 per cent of the state’s farmers have “intermittent or non-existent” mobile phone reception.

Walcha farmer Michael Campbell, who manages the 12,500-acre property Wirribilla, said he was forced to adapt to a life with patchy reception.

“Even in the house, you can get three bars at one end and no reception at the other,” Mr Campbell said.

“On the property, you really only get reception at the tops of hills.

“We’ve just learned to adapt to it. We have two-ways in all our vehicles and you just listen to your messages and return calls when you’re at the top of a hill.

“ Even if you go a few kilometres north of the township on the Uralla road you drop out – it’s ridiculous.”

There is only one phone tower in Walcha, with the nearest other one about 50km away.

Elders Walcha branch manager Nick Hall said it was becoming increasingly difficult to do business with such diabolical mobile phone reception.

“So much business is done on mobiles now and it’s those pockets in between the phone towers where the problems lie,” Mr Hall said.

“With emails, SMS and everything else, you just expect reception to be there. People around here are wise to it; we use our message banks a lot, but it’s still a huge issue.”

NSW Farmers’ telecommunications spokesperson Anthony Gibson said that good communications were not a luxury – but a necessity.

“The more isolated you are, the more critical reliable communications are. Running a business without access to mobile technology when you are constantly on the move is both challenging and frustrating,” he said.

“For many people in regional NSW, there is no point in having a new phone with the latest applications.

“Being able to make and receive phone calls effectively is more important.”

The NSW Farmers’ survey of 630 members also revealed the quality and volatility of internet services remained a key challenge, with many regional users experiencing periods of limited connection or no connection at all.

“We have met with Telstra as the main service provider in regional NSW and hope that our ongoing dialogue will help address some of the challenges our farmers and their communities face,” Mr Gibson said.

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