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South-west residents call for better internet access and mobile phone coverage | The Standard

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The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for improved internet access for a number of south-west residents, submissions to a telecommunications review show. Panmure’s Craig Wiffrie says homeschooling three children proved difficult with poor internet access. “We struggle for decent strength and speed and the internet often drops out,” Mr Wiffrie said. He said his children’s teachers were very understanding, but it meant they often missed out on online sessions. “The kids found something to do each time while they waited for internet to return,” he said. “Unfortunately, sometimes they would miss something they couldn’t watch again.” A Hexham woman said her daughter was completing year 12 and was also negatively impacted by internet woes. Corangamite Shire Mayor Ruth Gstrein said reliable connectivity – whether it be internet access or mobile phone coverage – was essential for all south-west residents. She said the St Patrick’s Day bushfires in 2018 highlighted a number of blackspots across the shire when it came to connectivity. Cr Gstrein said the council was lobbying for improved internet access at Port Campbell and Simpson. However, there were many other areas across the shire which had blackspots in terms of mobile phone access and internet reliability, she said. Cr Gstrein said connectivity was essential for safety and for productivity. “Farming these days relies so heavily on internet access,” she said. “Everyone should be treated equally. We rely so heavily on connectivity in rural Victoria and we shouldn’t miss out.” A number of south-west residents made submissions to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review. Woolsthorpe’s Alistair Allan said he had poor mobile phone reception despite the recent installation of a 4G tower nearby. “We can receive and send text messages but not telephone calls,” he said in his submission. “This is most annoying, especially when we are required to call 101, which we cannot do on our mobile telephones from home. We are not the only household affected. Many Woolsthorpe residents have to go out into the street to make a call.” Wickliffe’s Edith Coombe said she had poor internet access and mobile phone coverage. “We live in the center of the main street of Wickliffe, and have had many experiences of stranded travellers, broken down and unable to phone for help,” she wrote in her submission. Mrs Coombe said she and her husband became extremely concerned each time they heard landline phones may become obsolete. “We also get annoyed when we hear about all the upgrades and improvements and 5G and all the other hi-tech things that have been developed (for city dwellers) yet they still cannot supply even the basic services to us country folk,” she said . Their comments come after independent politician Helen Haines floated a proposal that would force telcos provide regional areas with the fast high-quality standard of internet metro areas enjoy or face financial penalties. If passed, the bill would legislate a new national standard for the National Broadband Network and other telecommunication provides to provide an average download speed of 25 megabits per second every hour of the day. IN OTHER NEWS: Listen to our new series The Folkie Podcast, only on Spotify. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:

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