Emily Wilson, Nathan Devin, Heather Stewardson and Di Human all work at Kingscliff and are fed up with the poor phone and internet coverage in the town.
Emily Wilson, Nathan Devin, Heather Stewardson and Di Human all work at Kingscliff and are fed up with the poor phone and internet coverage in the town. Sue Gardiner

‘Kingscliff salute’ angers business owners

KINGSCLIFF small business owners are demanding answers, and even compensation, from Telstra for ongoing phone, internet and EFTPOS outages they say are costing them big dollars.

There was a major Telstra outage last Thursday between Taree and Kingscliff, but local businesses say that was just a more extreme example of what they regularly contend with.

Many believe that the infrastructure has not kept up with data demand in the town despite it being the jewel of the Tweed Shire’s tourism crown.

Fiona Meldrum, the owner of Casuarina Florist & Gifts at Kingscliff Shopping Village, said her mobile and work phone plus Internet and EFTPOS were out for five days last week and she was still trying to get an explanation from Telstra.

Customers couldn’t contact her and those who came to the centre without cash couldn’t purchase her products with her EFTPOS also on the blink.

“Last week my takings were down about $2000,” said Ms Meldrum who intends to send Telstra the bill.

DISCONNECTED: Fiona Meldrum from Casuarina Florist & Gifts at Kingscliff lost $2000 due to Telstra troubles last week.
DISCONNECTED: Fiona Meldrum from Casuarina Florist & Gifts at Kingscliff lost $2000 due to Telstra troubles last week. Sue Gardiner

Heather Stewardson from 2487 Real Estate said the internet was especially slow on public holidays and after 3pm on school days suggesting congestion was a part of the problem.

“We have potential buyers flying up to view properties in the area and when they ask about internet speeds,etc we have to be truthful and say we aren’t up to speed,” Ms Stewardson said.

Last week’s outage saw them have to close their doors for two days, but generally it can take their photographer two days to email pictures to their brochure printer to market a property.

Ms Stewardson said many real estate agents had similar issues.

Dominic Charilaou from Fix It Shoe Repairs whose EFTPOS is often extremely slow, or down costing him sales, said: “There’s no compensation when you lose business.

“Whose being held accountable?” he said.

Phone coverage is so bad for many in the town that a term called the “Kingscliff salute” has been coined.

It involves standing outside and waving your phone in the air to try and get bars to show on your mobile phone screen.

Telstra Area General Manager Michael Marom said they understood the concerns of local businesses and residents and were continuing to invest in local infrastructure to keep pace with the growth in the area.

"We are currently in the process of implementing a port and exchange upgrade, which is due to be completed at the end of July and will provide additional ADSL 2 capacity and ease some of the congestion issues some customers have been experiencing,” Mr Marom said.

"Obviously the outage issues we have recently experienced have been a contributing factor to that and we will look to work with any of our customers experiencing issues to provide any assistance we can."

Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliot said the “failed rollout” of the “second-rate NBN” was hurting locals across the region.

“Quite simply the Liberal/ Nationals’ second-rate copper NBN is a total failure, and like the government is in complete chaos,” she said.

On May 3, Mrs Elliot told Federal Parliament that her constituents were “constantly frustrated that they cannot get any decent internet access”.

“There are very slow speeds and lots of buffering.”

According to the National Broadwork Network’s official schedule, it should reach Kingscliff next month, however some of the complainants say they’ve been told that it won’t arrive for 18 months.

Richmond National party candidate Matthew Fraser said he was also affected by last week’s outage and he could understand the frustration of local business owners.

“I’m pleased to say the NBN’s 2016 connection targets are two months ahead of schedule as the network connects its one millionth paying customer,” he said.

“This means that in less than one year, the NBN has more than doubled its coverage from 1.16 million premises last July to more than 2.5 million today, and the NBN is connecting up more than 60,000 homes a month.

“On top of this, the Government has just announced a $60 million Mobile Black Spot Program, bringing the Coalition’s total investment in eliminating mobile black spots to $220 million.

“If elected, I’ll be advocating for the rollout of both programs in this area.”

Figures from Australia's Telecommunication Ombudsman shows complaints about internet issues are on the rise across the country.

In the first quarter of this year, internet issues made up about 35 per cent of all complaints, compared to 26 per cent for the same quarter last year.

A spokesman for the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network said the latest Telstra outage, the fourth this year, led her to question the reliability of their network infrastructure.

Complaints can be made to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman on 1800 062058.

The NBN rollout maps are available here: http://www.nbnco.com.au/sell-nbn-services/rollout-map.html



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