Valley black spots vie for funding

RELATED COVERAGE: Patchy service causes daily frustration

Latrobe Valley communities with poor to non-existent mobile phone coverage face some tough competition in their bid for a share of $100 million in Federal funding for troubled black spot areas.

Coming good on a pre-election promise to improve mobile phone coverage in regional areas, the Federal Government put the call out for feedback submissions to its Mobile Coverage Plan in January. 

While $80 million has been promised over four years to expand existing coverage along major transport routes, small communities and areas prone to experiencing natural disasters, a further $20 million would be allocated to holiday destinations and locations “with unique coverage problems”.

Member for Gippsland Darren Chester, who had been a strong advocate for improving mobile phone coverage during his time in opposition, has made a formal submission to government detailing the Gippsland towns in most need of improved service.

“It is acknowledged that the topography of the (Gippsland) region and its dispersed population make it difficult to provide adequate mobile phone coverage and there are literally dozens of communities and localities which have raised concerns with me over the past five years,” Mr Chester wrote in his submission.

Of the 42 towns mentioned in his submission, 13 are within Latrobe City Council’s jurisdiction.

“From a business perspective, I am regularly advised by Gippslanders of the extremes they often go to when using their mobile phones. Generally, this involves driving a few kilometres from their homes to higher ground or standing in different areas of their properties to get a signal,” Mr Chester said.

“In the case of farmers, often working alone on their properties, this is an unacceptable health and safety risk. Some residents have opted for the more expensive satellite phone option but others rely on patchy mobile phone coverage.”