Molyullah black hole
At beef farmer John Knapper’s farm, set among the rolling hills of Molyullah, there’s one sound you will never hear — a mobile phone ringing.
Mr Knapper lives in a telecommunication black hole. He relies on his landline to receive calls and gets his television signal via satellite.
Mr Knapper said it was a source of constant frustration and every time he wanted to make a call he was forced to return to the landline phone in his home.
‘‘You really can’t be without (a mobile phone) in this day and age,’’ he said.
‘‘You couldn’t rely on using any sort of connection out in the paddock.’’
Mr Knapper was recently connected to the NBN and has previously inquired about other communications options to gain mobile phone reception, which would cost more than $3000 with no guarantee it would deliver coverage.
Although towers are scheduled to go up in his area soon, Mr Knapper said he wasn’t holding out too much hope.
‘‘I’m not holding my breath because there’s a couple of hills between where we live and where we think the tower will be,’’ he said.
Campbell Griffin, who lives in a valley in Molyullah which also does not receive mobile phone coverage, has spent a number of years advocating for change. Mr Griffin has been forced to use a satellite phone since the Black Saturday bushfires disconnected his service, and said the government’s definition of a landline as the basic service all individuals were entitled to from their providers was no longer acceptable.
‘‘The government really needs to change its policy . . . the reality is that the basic service today should be a mobile phone,’’ he said. ‘‘They need to wake up to each other.’’ Mr Knapper’s and Mr Griffin’s stories are not uncommon, and the VFF has said regional areas were being left behind as telecommunications upgrades and the NBN rollout dragged on.
The VFF urged the Federal Government to invest further in rural telecommunications at a Productivity Commission inquiry early this month.
VFF vice-president Brett Hosking said the government’s Universal Services Obligation, which ensures all Australians get a basic level of service from their providers, had lost its relevance.
‘‘The current USO is seriously outdated and ignores the dependence of our daily lives on mobile phones and the internet,’’ Mr Hosking said.
‘‘Mobile coverage especially is crucial not just for farm safety, but for everything from checking market reports on your phone to emailing yield data to your agronomist.’’
Mr Hosking said there were concerns the NBN was unable to deliver a basic level of service for rural communities.
‘‘In Victoria, just as across the country, the NBN has failed the pub test because the rollout has been slow and there’s real concern that so far the service isn’t delivering the service most farmers and rural families need, such as quality reception and download capacity,’’ he said.
‘‘We receive complaints from farmers frustrated about the level of service being provided under the USO when it’s clear an effort isn’t being made to ensure we can keep up with our city cousins as technology rapidly advances.’’
No signal . . . The hills of Molyullah are not alive with the sound of ringing mobile phones.