Less than 30 kilometres from Mudgee, residents in the Cooyal area were recently left helpless, unable to contact the outside world thanks to an extended outage of the NBN compounding the fact there is no mobile phone tower providing service in the area.
The issues began when Cooyal Hotel owner and resident, David Miller received the following email notice from his internet provider, Telstra:
Your Telstra service on the nbn network may be interrupted for up to 6 hours on 7 May 2019 between 7:00am and 8:00pm, as maintenance is scheduled to be performed by nbn co in your area. If the maintenance activity can't proceed on 7 May 2019, it may occur on a following day, but no later than 18 May 2019. The service disruption will include calls, if you need to make emergency calls (000), please use your mobile or an alternative option.
We apologise for any inconvenience.
The problem for the residents was that the interruption went on much longer than the six hours that was advised.
For little over a week, the residents of Cooyal were without internet or landline phone connections
NBN Co. says it notified the Retail Service Providers (RSP) on May 3 and it's up to them to communicate the outages accurately to their customers.
Cooyal is considered a mobile phone black spot. Coverage is so poor that one business owner has paid to install a relay on their property that people can visit to get temporary service in a radius of barely 50 metres.
"As soon as I was alerted to the issues in Cooyal, I contacted Telstra and NBN Co. and asked them to get cracking on fixing the problem,"Andrew Gee
The black spot also covers many residents living in the Botobolar valley and the neighbouring areas of Kains Flat and Totnes Valley.
The Mudgee Guardian sat down with Cooyal Hotel owner, David Miller, his mother, Lee and business owners David Sargeant and Judy Rogers of Karabool Olives which is located in the Botobolar locality who say this isn't the first time these issues have led to serious problems.
"There have been a couple of serious car accidents here and a house burned down just over a year ago," he said.
"When that house burned down the fellow living there couldn't get a hold of the fire brigade quickly enough because he had no signal,"
In a statement, NBN Co, said it apologises for the outage but that issues like this can be quickly fixed by contacting them.
"It is important the residents and businesses with any concerns should contact their retail service provider in the first instance. If the service provider in unable to find a fault within their customers premise or their own network, they will escalate it to NBN who will work with the RSP to resolve it."
"The Mobile carriers' predictive coverage maps indicate there should be mobile coverage around the Cooyal area."Department of Communications
The Mudgee Guardian also requested comment from Andrew Gee in regards to the outage and the continued calls from residents for the installation of a mobile tower. He responded, saying the people of Cooyal deserve better.
"I was extremely disappointed in Telstra and NBN Co. that what they said was maintenance work dragged on for so long," he said.
"As soon as I was alerted to the issues in Cooyal, I contacted Telstra and NBN Co. and asked them to get cracking on fixing the problem,"
"I also wrote to both the head of Telstra and NBN Co.,"
"The people of Cooyal deserve better treatment and I'm pleased that as of Wednesday afternoon everyone who contacted our office with an issue had their service restored."
In 2010, Member for Parkes Mark Coulton MP tabled a petition over telecommunications problems in the Botobolar, Lue and Cooyal areas in Federal Parliament. In 2015 several mobile black spots were earmarked in a joint Federal and State Government program which resulted in a tower in Lue.
The Lue tower however, hasn't improved service in the area and residents are calling for their own tower to be funded. After service was restored to the area. David says that while they're thankful, it doesn't solve the underlying issue.
"The next time the NBN has to be switched off for maintenance, the same thing will happen, the issue of what happens when it is down is very real," he said.
"The next time the NBN has to be switched off for maintenance, the same thing will happen, the issue of what happens when it is down is very real."David Miller
"I was talking last night to a mother of four children from Botobolar. Her husband is a contractor at the mines and relies on the phone each day to be called in for work. Her kids need internet to do homework."
The Department of Communications told the Mudgee Guardian in a response that applications for another round of black spot fixes is now open, however they also say the telco's maps suggest there should be service.
"The application process for Round 5, the next round of the program, is currently open and seeking proposals from mobile network operators and infrastructure providers by 26 July 2019."
"The Mobile carriers' predictive coverage maps indicate there should be mobile coverage around the Cooyal area."