Dereel residents lobby government for better phone coverage

DEREEL is the town with a fast-speed broadband connection, limited mobile reception and, at times, no landline phone coverage.

Two months ago, the town – situated 32 kilometres south of Ballarat – received a fixed wireless tower as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout. 

But after bushfires devastated some Dereel properties in March last year, resident Julie Donaghy and her Rokewood friend Tracey Taylor have been lobbying the state government for a mobile phone tower. 

The NBN fixed wireless tower only provides data connections to residential homes – not mobile phone coverage. 

Ms Donaghy and Ms Taylor have since gathered more than 1200 signatures from residents to support their cause. 

Last year the federal Liberal party promised, if elected, it would invest $100 million to improve mobile phone coverage to regional and remote communities as part of its Mobile Black Spot Programme. 

Ms Taylor said she hoped the government would stay true to its word.

“We want to make sure that if we are in a high risk (bushfire) area, (Dereel) will be at the top of the list to receive that funding,” Ms Taylor said. 

The pair said they didn’t care how they received the mobile coverage, they just wanted it as soon as possible. 

Last March Ms Donaghy, who lives on Ballarat-Colac Road, lost her landline phone connection and could not be contacted by her friends and family during the fires. 

“We couldn’t get in contact with Julie. She went 52 days without a landline connection,” Ms Taylor said. 

Ms Taylor said emergency services also had trouble communicating on their mobile phones. 

“We had a police officer throw his mobile on the ground out of frustration because he couldn’t get reception,” she said. 

Ms Donaghy said the problem came down to neglected and dated infrastructure in the Dereel area. 

“It’s to do with the lack of infrastructure around here,” she said.

“It’s time for an upgrade.” 

The pair expect to meet with Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson and Minister of Communications in Dereel on Tuesday.

kara.irving@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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