By Matt Male
HUNDREDS of residents across the Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires can’t get mobile phone reception, while major phone companies are rolling out even faster mobile internet to city users.
And while governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars fixing black spots across Australia, there’s still more than 80 areas across the two shires which have little to no coverage.
Many residents say they can’t make phone calls unless they’re standing on their roof or holding the phone above their head.
To make matters worse, the switch to the NBN forced many households into using a landline connected to the power.
Previously, most landlines would still work even if the electricity went out.
“Now if the power goes out, we have no connection to the outside world,” said Wonthaggi resident of more than 40 years, Coral Jones.
Coral and husband Michael found out the potential life-or-death consequences of having little to no reception at their Wonthaggi home in September 2017.
It was around midnight when Michael felt ill and was experiencing back and chest pain.
Michael started off feeling tired, but when his symptoms became worse – Coral called triple zero.
Luckily, triple zero calls can bounce off competing telcos’ phone towers – but when the paramedics arrived, they couldn’t use their mobiles to speak to a specialist.
It wasn’t until the paramedics left the house and drove down the road that they could make a phone call.
“We’ve had no mobile signal for years,” Coral said.
“They say you’ve got to do everything on your mobile nowadays, but we can’t even get a wireless internet dongle.
“I used to see one of the neighbours walk up and down the road talking on the phone because they didn’t have any reception inside their house.”
Coral’s found one solution to the problem, where she puts her phone on a window sill and then talks through a Bluetooth earpiece.
“You can only go so far though,” she said.
“It’s just crappy. This whole thing has gotten worse since the NBN. I feel like we’ve taken a step backwards.”
She said the reception’s become worse since Christmas.
During the first three rounds of the Federal Government’s $220m Mobile Black Spot Program, 12 phone towers in the Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires were funded.
There were 101 reports of blackspots across the two shires when the program was launched – potentially leaving up to 89 black spots yet to be fixed.
The 12 towers include two in Bass Coast and 10 in South Gippsland.
There was one extra – to bring South Gippsland up to 11 – planned to be built at Waratah Bay, but the government said it could not be built due to “unforeseen technical or site acquisition issues”.
However, the government said coverage at Waratah Bay would be improved due to a new tower being funded nearby.
The government’s expected to announce in the coming months where towers will be built under round four of the black spot program.