Bushfires came within inches of destroying Alma Anderson’s Humula property.
She felt no fear seeing the flames on that day five years ago. But when she looked at her mobile phone, she panicked.
We had a fire tornado coming at us, and the scariest thing was to see those flames and know we had no way to contact anyone at all.- Alma Anderson
“We had to be evacuated but many of us had no way to know that, without a phone or internet, we were stuck.”
Ms Anderson joined a room full of disgruntled telecom customers on Thursday to air her internet and phone grievances to the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee.
Along with 23 business owners, IT experts, and residents, independent telco operators were also present. But there was a distinct lack of representation from the company giants.
Only Telstra was game enough to show, and consequently received a majority of the animosity in the room.
“There are hundreds of telcos in this country, they were all invited but only Telstra turned up today, so you have to give them that,” said committee chair, Sean Edwards.
Sparking particular fury was the company’s recent announcement that the 3G network will become unavailable in the next two years as the 5G network begins operation.
“It’s an installation problem, there’s no flexibility in the service, it’s a one-size-fits-all service,” said Bob McCormick.
He has been trying to improve services to his farm in Temora for the past five years.
“To be left without a phone service for six months on a rural property is just ridiculous,” he said.
If you’re living on a rural property you're stuck in the 20th century while the rest of the country moves on.- Bob McCormick
The telco’s decision to improve services to rural communities by bringing some call centres back to Australia met with approval.
Under the trial system, callers outside the radius of a city centre may be able to speak with an operator in Australia, while the rest of the country continues to speak with someone in the Philippines.
It was a welcome change for those who had spent hours on-hold to overseas operators, but just one step in the improvement process.
“I always say at the end of these things, never give up the fight,” said Mr McCormick.
“Never give up, and we’ll get it one day.”