Outlying towns should expect services they pay for | Editorial

OUTLYING towns should be afforded the same level of communication as their neighbouring centres.

But the small town of Manilla, just 45 kilometres northwest of the regional city of Tamworth, has unfortunately come to expect downed coverage after a string of unexpected interruptions.

Telstra mobile phones and internet services have again been disrupted this week, sending local businesses and residents into a spin.

Hundreds of homes and many businesses were without internet access from Monday morning until Wednesday afternoon due to a lightning strike taking out some Telstra infrastructure.

Local man Steve Moore lost what could have been a $20,000 job with his kitchen business because he was unable to get a quote out.

He is just one of many businesses to not only lose customers, but also their patience.

It’s easy to pass this week’s incident off as a force of Mother Nature that can’t be avoided. 

But we must remember that the same town was hamstrung by a similar problem late last year.

There was a Telstra mobile blackout in Manilla for two weeks in October, as crews undertook “maintenance work on the tower to rectify the issue”.

But four months later, the town has been plunged into darkness yet again. Fruit and Veg shop owner Sonya Sevil told The Leader on Wednesday that it is the lack of communication from Telstra that is most frustrating.

“For the last three or four months the internet is down at least once a week and the customer service has been terrible,” Mrs Sevil said.

“We have had no eftpos, we can’t make orders or access emails and we can’t talk to anybody from Telstra that can tell us what is happening. Small businesses are already doing it hard enough without this.” 

Our culture has come to rely so heavily on phones and internet – especially out in the bush – so when communication is cut, things go belly-up.

Telstra has apologised to customers for the inconvenience caused, stating equipment was damaged during severe weather. But the question must be asked – would continued outages in a larger centre like Tamworth prompt a more permanent solution? It’s only fair our outlying towns, villages and communities can expect phone and internet service for which they pay.