Poor coverage a danger to communities

By Country News

Shepparton’s State MP holds grave concerns for what poor connectivity in Katandra West and Katunga could mean in an emergency.

Suzanna Sheed said inadequate mobile reception in Shepparton district towns was just not acceptable because it was a safety issue and could affect the welfare of communities.

The State Member for Shepparton used a constituency question in parliament this week to quiz the Victorian Government on progress towards removing the Shepparton-area blackspots.

‘‘Can you please advise what action is being taken to appropriately assess and improve the significant lack of mobile phone reception in the Shepparton electorate and to ensure my constituents receive the service they deserve?’’ she asked.

‘‘Katunga is a town in my electorate that was already identified as a priority area, and indeed many constituents in that area have voiced their concern about lack of coverage for years.’’

Katandra West is in a similar situation.

Ms Sheed said phone reception should not be a luxury in the modern day and it was now a safety issue for the towns, which needed to be addressed as a priority.

‘‘I and many of my constituents hold grave concerns about what the poor coverage could mean in an emergency when vital safety information cannot be relayed to communities, and I look forward to seeing what the government will be doing about this,’’ she said.

Stakeholders last month argued whichever tier of government was best placed to provide reliable mobile phone coverage to poorly-connected local communities should lead the way with it.

It follows the Victorian Government’s decision last month to turn its back on the Federal Government’s mobile blackspot program to instead put funding into its own towers.

In a thinly veiled barb, the Victorian Government committed to instead choosing mobile tower locations ‘‘based on merit and necessity, rather than political interests’’.

The state will instead spend $11million it would have invested in the third round of the federal program to work with major telcos to build new towers.

Katandra West dentist David Whelan this month said the town had been disappointed it had not yet been provided for under the program, despite continuous efforts.

Last month Katunga locals told Country News connectivity in the town was ‘‘virtually non-existent’’.

Despite the state government’s decision, locals remained unconvinced it would improve their situation.