A Nannup resident has begun a protest about mobile communications coverage in country areas compared with metropolitan centres.
Len Gilchrist told the Times of continuing problems with access to services, in particular his Telstra 4G internet account and radio reception.
Telstra suggested he purchase a high-gain antenna, which he had since done, or a satellite dish costing more than $1500.
A community rally was held at the Nannup Bowling Club on Monday, drawing about 14 people to discuss how to put the issue on the radar.
Mr Gilchrist said the matter was one of “life and death” if people were cut-off from communications during emergency situations.
“Nannup is rated (as) a high fire risk area ... a bloke lost his life at Greenbushes (in last week’s bushfire) – if he had a mobile he might have been right, ” he said.
Mr Gilchrist said there was a need for “people-power pressure” and hoped to organise a petition with 1000 signatures and encourage residents to engage in an “emailathon” to Federal Minister for Communications, Broadband and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy.
Under the State Government’s $106 million Regional Mobile Communications Project, 43 of 113 new towers planned for completion within the next two years have been activated through Telstra.
Designed to extend rural and remote highway and town-to-town coverage, the project has so far incorporated only Capel and Mumballup outside the Goldfields-Esperance region and the State’s North.
South West MLC and Nationals WA president Colin Holt said he was aware of needs in outlying areas such as Jalbaragup but no specific concerns had been raised with him.
However, he signalled he was open to feedback to lobby for improvements in the next phase of the RMCP’s rollout. “When stage two funding becomes available I want to present the best case possible so the State Minister can’t ignore it, ” he said.
Telstra South West country wide area general manager Boyd Brown said in addition to the RMCP, the company was working with local governments and the South West Development Commission on locations where new towers could be jointly used for fire and emergency equipment.
While acknowledging there were black spots, Department of Fire and Emergency Services Capes district officer Danny Mosconi said community warnings could be delivered in many ways, including capacity for an Emergency Alert to reach landlines in places under threat.