McCullys Gap residents frustrated by lack of reliable phone service

McCULLYS Gap residents just want one thing - a reliable phone system that actually works.

Telstra installed a single cell tower near the community hall just before Christmas but many of the locals are still disconnected from the real world.

It's become a major source of frustration for the men and women who thought they'd finally receive dependable service out there.

In March, 2019, Minister for Regional Services and Deputy Leader of the Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said McCullys Gap would be one of the 54 locations for new base stations, which would be delivered under round four of the government's Mobile Black Spot Program.

"Reliable and effective mobile communications are a key driver of the enormous contribution that our regions make to Australia's economic growth," she announced at the time.

But, it is not the case for those living in McCullys Gap.

Even when you travel towards the township, a text message notifies you that you're in a 4G "Small Cell" area, requesting you visit a Telstra website to learn if you can make and receive calls.

"In this day and age, it isn't acceptable," Carol O'Brien said.

"We have more than 55 people who live around here; however anyone outside 500m (of the single cell tower) is affected.

"It's supposed to do up to 45km.

"When it [the tower] went up in December, we assumed it would be the answer to all our prayers.

"Unfortunately, it's been a nightmare.

"We're on a satellite service [at home] just to get the internet.

"It would've been nice if they could have installed it on the small hill nearby and then maybe more people would have gotten the coverage.

"They simply haven't done their homework.

"It looks like it's been completed on the cheap."

McCullys Gap was originally listed on the Australian Government website as a "black spot", with installation imminent.

Now, Telstra says the work is complete, stating the problem has been fixed.

But, that's far from the truth, according to Tony Witt.

"Everyone's upset about it," he said.

"The tower is installed right next to the old exchange.

"It's a thin pole tied to that building.

"So, unless you live beside the tower or close by you get nothing.

"We believe it's still a black spot.

"Our landlines are intermittent as well.

"We've lost them on three occasions in the past two months - including 10 days over the Christmas period.

"That's just not good enough.

"Telstra even undertook a planned outage that no-one knew about.

"You can understand why the locals aren't happy."

With bushfires rampant throughout the region, and McCullys Gap in a precarious position due to its location, a lack of trustworthy communication could have dire consequences, too.

"It's a dangerous situation," Kerry McTaggart said.

"No landline, no mobile service - so that means you can't receive an SES or RFS text if anything arises.

"It doesn't help the [RFS] volunteers around here either, unless they're at the station.

"Unfortunately, the communication between Telstra and residents has been non-existent.

"A single cell tower might work in the city, but it doesn't in the country.

"When I contacted Telstra, I was told it wasn't an issue anymore.

"They also informed me that you needed a compatible phone from them to ensure its reliability.

"They even gave me a list of suitable mobiles.

"After checking them out, the cheapest one - with a plan - was $470 to purchase.

"How's that help anyone?

"I think they've taken us for idiots."