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News for December 4, 2021

Telecommunication Issues Affect Kimberley Businesses

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Australia’s East Kimberley businesses are being severely restricted by the region’s insufficient internet and phone services, a report said. Some bosses have sent workers home for more reliable connections, a submission to the federal government says.

The East Kimberley Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EKCCI) surveyed members to contribute to this year’s Regional Telecommunications Review.

Most respondents claimed that Telstra was their primary mobile provider, with 88 percent dissatisfied with their service. 70 percent stated that mobile connectivity was extremely poor.

The study found that the increased volume of visitors and the storms reduced the speed of the internet, which affected EFTPOS, cloud-based email, reservations, accounting, and banking.

EKCCI President Amanda McLean said some businesses were forced to let employees work from home because of the slow internet speed.

“It’s pretty frustrating to be sending your staff home because they can’t actually do their job,” she shared.

“Just because we’re in regional areas does not mean we should not have access to high-quality services.”

She also said that slow internet in the region created havoc that went beyond small companies.

Lark Argyle Resort and Caravan Park owner Charlie Sharpe says he has had trouble with telecommunications at the remote site for several years.

He explained that the long period required to upgrade the remote digital services meant that his team was constantly trying to catch up.

“I totally wish technology would stop for a few years and just stay the same, but as quick as they can get infrastructure in place, the technology changes, and I think that’s the biggest challenge,” he said.    

Chairman of the reviewing committee, Luke Hartsuyker said the submissions pointed out the ways mobile devices had changed and challenged the current infrastructure.

“Voice was 99 percent of mobile traffic some years ago, now data is 98 percent of the traffic on the network, so it’s placing a lot of strain on the network,” the former Nationals MP said.    

He added that the switch away from cash had put local businesses at risk of mobile phone network issues.

“The telecommunications system has become a de facto banking system as well as a means of communicating, and so for many businesses, if their EFTPOS is down, they can’t transact business,” Hartsuyker said.        

In July, Telstra was under pressure to upgrade its infrastructure after power problems at two different exchanges caused phones, internet, and mobile services to go down throughout Kimberley, causing havoc for police and businesses handling border applications.

The committee is expected to deliver its report to the government before the end of the year.

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