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13 Jan 2023

Phone dead zone plagues Back Valley│The Fleurieu Sun

By Bryan Littlely 

Back Valley residents were plunged into a communications dead zone on New Year's Eve, lasting up to five days with the farming district’s land lines completely cut and still no improvement for the dangerous mobile black spot area despite recent works to install a new 4G phone tower.

The farming community is now collectively calling for urgent action to improve phone service in the high risk valley, which has twice flooded in the past six months and is a fire danger area, before it is too late and disaster strikes.

Concerned and frustrated residents with family members with critical health care needs and businesses to run have paid up to $2000 each to have booster towers installed just to make their phone service work.

They say if promised black spot funding believed to now have been already spent without any improvement to mobile coverage is not going to work, each household in the region should have such booster towers subsidised.

Deb Hosking was one of dozens on the Back Valley community’s Messenger chat group last week as families worked together to get the land line issue addressed.

She advised her land line was dead and had been since New Year’s Eve.

Messages from Telstra shared in the group said the service was expected to not be restored until Tuesday, January 10.

“Our mobile coverage is only when I am near the wifi satellite internet,’’ Mrs Hosking said.

“I am concerned also that if we don’t have coverage by land line or mobile what happens in an emergency? It’s frustrating and dangerous.’’

Lisa Kirk knows well the need for phone service in Back Valley.

As a carer for her mother, Jane, on the family’s dairy farm, their land line is critical.

And being first on the scene at a terrifying car accident on Back Valley Road around a year ago showed her just how important decent phone coverage is.

“The vehicle had rolled multiple times and I had to leave the severely injured driver by himself over and over again, against his wishes, to get phone service to call an ambulance, direct them to the scene and get verbal first aid support from them,’’ Lisa said.

“I actually hung up on them multiple times as the patient desperately needed me. The paramedic needed me to stay on the phone and I couldn’t. We shouldn’t have to pick in this day and age between either staying with a patient to provide first aid and calling for help.

"The medical advice and support we can receive via phone these days is life saving stuff.”

Member for Finniss David Basham said the Marshall Liberal State government invested $581,527 to deliver a new mobile phone tower at Back Valley to address a key local black spot.

“Telstra advised that delivery of the project was delayed due to ongoing lease negotiations,’’ he said.

“Telstra delivered the project, determining the site, engaging with landowners and establishing the tower.

"I am making enquiries to the regional Telstra team to learn more about what coverage the new tower provides, what improvement to the area it has provided and if there is any capacity for improvement.’’

Liberal Senator for South Australia Andrew McLachlan said he could understand the frustration of Back Valley residents who are still struggling with connectivity issues, despite the recent installation of a new phone tower.

“It is clear that more mobile towers need to be brought online as soon as possible and I will be writing to Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland requesting that the situation in Back Valley be addressed,” he said.

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