Regular Telstra outages in Ardlethan have hit home for a firefighter and a mother forced to borrow an Optus phone to arrange her son’s funeral.
Telstra customers in Ardlethan are suffering through their eleventh outage in the last 12 months, after a storm rolled through the region on Friday night.
Crop farmer Andrew Hawthorne has taken to scaling a grain silo at the end of the day, where he picks up just enough phone signal to check his voicemail messages.
Mr Hawthorne is a senior officer with the Rural Fire Service and worries his coverage woes will have “fatal consequences” the next time a motorist has a bad accident on a local road.
He also worries what he’d do if his children were bitten by a snake or suffered an asthma attack.
“Our mobile tower at Ardlethan keeps breaking down every time we have a power failure or heavy rain or wind,” Mr Hawthorne said.
“It’s costing me business; I missed a heap of calls yesterday, my phone just didn't ring.
“I work on my own a lot of the time out in the paddock with heavy tractors and trucks and if something happens to me and the service is down, there's serious implications.”
Fellow Ardlethan resident Debbie Andrews buried her son six weeks ago, during another of the region’s regular outages, and relied on her sister’s Optus phone to stay in touch with the funeral home.
“My son committed suicide six weeks ago, I had to plan his funeral and my point of contact was my mobile,” she said.
“If it wasn't for my sister being here with her Optus phone, I would’ve had to drive from Ardlethan to Temora to speak to funeral directors in person.
“Mobile phone coverage is not a luxury, it's a necessity.
“There’s a gentleman in town (Ardlethan) on portable oxygen and he cannot leave his house without his mobile, which means he’s been stuck at home since Friday.”
Telstra believes interference is causing interruptions to mobile services but has not yet been able to identify the root cause of the problem.
“A restart of our mobile equipment has not resolved the issue and we are undertaking an on-site inspection of the mobile facility today (Wednesday) to identify if there is a hardware fault or if this may be the result of external interference,” area general manager Chris Taylor said.