Patchy networks spark fury

Rachel Heurea of Clyde struggles to get phone reception at her home. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Brendan Rees

Casey residents bunkered down at home say their frustration has gone “through the roof” as they experience internet drop-outs and phone reception problems.

And with a second round of remote learning beginning families are bracing themselves for more pain.

Rachel Heurea of Clyde, who is a disability worker with two children learning from home said her family’s NBN internet connection was “weak”.

“Without the internet we wouldn’t get any mobile connection as we can only make and receive calls using Wi-Fi calling,” she said.

“You often see people standing out the front of their houses on their mobiles trying to get connection.”

Other residents say it was “embarrassing” to tell their clients they had no phone reception while a Clyde mother said she worried if she had to call an ambulance for her son who is anaphylactic due to “power outages”.

Kenneth Diaz, an Optus phone customer, who runs his own bricklaying business, said he was in the middle of work when his internet cut-out and “couldn’t continue any work until very late that night”.

However, in a sigh of relief, Bass MP Jordan Crugnale said she had received confirmation that a new Vodafone tower would be built for Clyde.

“We also had confirmation that Vodafone will also provide Telstra customers coverage. Towers can be shared with other telco providers and this is done on a tower by tower case,” Ms Crugnale said.

“This is vital infrastructure for a new suburb, mobile connectivity is a 21st century expectation and it is metropolitan Melbourne after all and should not be an afterthought.”

An Optus spokesperson said some customers in areas of Lynbrook, Clyde and Berwick may have experienced disruptions to their NBN service due to an outage on 15 July but services had been fully restored.

“We apologise to our customers affected by the outage and thank them for their patience while services were being restored,” the spokesperson said.

A Telstra spokesperson said upgrades had been undertaken in Berwick to the mobile phone network “which means customers may notice a change in their coverage while we’re working on the site”.

“In areas around Merinda Park South, including Lynbrook, we’ve had to temporarily optimise the mobile network to ensure coverage for areas around a site which was damaged by fire in May. This means we’ve made some adjustments to nearby sites to cover the area which was being serviced by the damaged tower which may mean some changes to coverage that people experience,” the spokesperson said.

NBNCo said service providers were responsible for mobile services, while the NBN was responsible for fixed line services to the home

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones said residential consumers and small businesses first need to notify their phone or internet provider of their service drop-outs or reception issues, and try to resolve their complaint with their provider.

“If the issue remains unresolved, consumers can make a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. We’re here to help,” Ms Jones said.

This was echoed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the NBN who both encouraged customers experiencing slow connection speeds and poor phone service to contact their retail service provider to determine the cause of the problem.

RMIT University electronic and telecommunications associate professor Dr Mark Gregory said it was only through more complaints lodged by customers that “the telos will take action to improve the reliability”.