Walgett farmer Ed Colless lit up the NSW Farmers conference with a blowtorch approach over poor phone services when he told a Telstra executive “I just want something that works”.
Mr Colless said he had a Telstra tower near his farm but Telstra had refused to put a mobile service on it that would cover his farm and his neighbours’ farms.
He said he pays $600 a month for a Telstra service and a Yagi aerial replicating service but his phone always drops out. He had no signal at his homestead.
At times he has 30 people working on his harvest trying to access data and none of them can get through. The phone also seemed to drop out just when people needed to contact their kids at the end of school.
“I don’t mind paying for a phone but I what I do object to is getting nothing for it,” he told the conference during the telecommunications debate.
He said that he often looks at a “bloody great microwave tower that Telstra refuses to put anything on”. “We are really getting gnarly about this. I’m not afraid to pay because I’m paying for a parallel support system anyway I just want something that works,” he said to applause and cheers from the rest of the Farmers conference. He said if he was a business in town, Telstra would be there in no time to fix the problem, but because he was a farmer he was not given assistance, even though at times he employs 30 people at harvest.
Telstra’s chief sustainability officer Tim O’Leary, sitting on a three-man panel at the conference, said he understood Mr Colless's frustration and agreed to talk about his problems outside the conference.
Mr O’Leary said Telstra was investing heavily in regional Australia and would have 99 per cent 4G coverage soon, with a huge opportunity to move to 5G, that would greatly benefit agritech ventures with its big capacity footprint.
He said Telstra was building another 350 new blackspot towers this year in Australia. He said Telstra was meeting its Universal Service Obligations.