Hawkesbury Mayor calls on Telstra to discuss Bilpin telecommunications issues

Mayor, Councillor Patrick Conolly and Councillor Sarah Richards, Chair of the Innovation and Partnership Committee Bilpin, at Bilpin on Saturday, March 20. Picture: Supplied
Mayor, Councillor Patrick Conolly and Councillor Sarah Richards, Chair of the Innovation and Partnership Committee Bilpin, at Bilpin on Saturday, March 20. Picture: Supplied

Telstra has responded to a media release distributed by Hawkesbury City Council on behalf of Mayor and Councillor Patrick Conolly right before the floods, that called for Telstra to meet with Bilpin residents to discuss 'failing' telecommunications.

Clr Conolly said he had contacted Telstra to meet with community members and Council to discuss how the telecommunications network could be made more effective and resilient.

"Whilst we are also seeking Telstra's assistance and commitment towards maintaining and enhancing the current telecommunications network, a community meeting about the issue of failing telecommunications during emergencies, and regularly poor, unreliable service any other day, is imperative for our community," Clr Conolly said.

"The devastating Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020 severely impacted our community.

"During these bushfires, as well as many times previously, the failure of power, loss of overhead cabling and poor coverage made management of the unfolding disaster unnecessarily complex. It put the lives of emergency services staff and volunteers, and our community members, at risk."

Clr Conolly said he was disappointed that Telstra representatives hadn't been made available to meet with him and the Bilpin community.

"As the Mayor of Hawkesbury, I am seeking the direct assistance of Telstra's Chief Executive Officer Andrew Penn to arrange relevant Telstra staff to meet with Council and the community to discuss matters of life and death in this vulnerable community that is still in recovery," he said.

In response, Telstra's Regional General Manager for NSW, Mike Moram, reminded delegates that Telstra met with Bilpin locals in March 2020, following the bushfires.

"As a key communications provider we take this responsibility very seriously and over the past 12 months Telstra has undertaken considerable work in the Bilpin area to improve both its fixed line and mobile network services," Mr Moram said.

"Besides restoring any damaged infrastructure due to the bushfire, Telstra has undertaken a review of our fixed line network and telephone exchange in the network and made upgrades to improve its performance and reliability.

"Our infrastructure is reliant on mains power to operate. Telstra has also upgraded the mobile base station that services the Bilpin community, significantly increasing the level of battery stand by capacity to 12 hours in the event of a major power outage."

He said there were a number of telecommunications options available to residents to enable connectivity, including mobile phones, landlines, the NBN, services from other providers and satellite phones, as well as device boosters and antennas to help boost coverage.

"We have previously spoken with the Council and offered to address any specific concerns that they had about particular sites. This invitation is ongoing," Mr Moram said.

"We also encourage any Bilpin residents experiencing issues at their property to contact us and report a fault."

He declined Council's request for a subsequent meeting.

"Based on holding a previous community meeting 12 months ago, our current network performance and recent upgrades in the area, Telstra thanks the Council for its invitation but does not believe any further community meetings in Bilpin are necessary at this stage," he said.