Monday, 24 February 2014

Lilydale & Yarra Valley Leader - Fight on for fire phone fix - 18 February 2014

by Kimberley Seedy

RESIDENTS in high bushfire risk areas of the Yarra Valley who can’t use their mobile phones in an emergency because the signal is so bad are pushing for funding to fix the problem.

Residents from East Warburton and Steels Creek, together with Casey federal Liberal MP Tony Smith and Yarra Ranges Council will make a joint submission for funding from a new $100 million Federal Government Mobile Coverage Program taskforce to fix the mobile phone black spots.

East Warburton resident John Harry, part of an action group formed last year to try and get the problem fixed, said poor mobile phone reception was a huge safety problem in the area.

Mr Harry said it was difficult to get reception to East Warburton, especially during bushfires, meaning ­residents couldn’t receive or send texts, access the FireReady App, or make phone calls.

“It is a very, very serious safety issue,” Mr Harry said.

“There are hundreds of people in this valley. The fire in Gladysdale (on February 9) was headed straight in this direction. We’re just lucky the CFA was able to put it out.

“We want to see a new ­mobile phone tower or towers built in the right spot, so we can have a clear, strong signal.

“There is an urgent need.”

Mr Harry said they were running a community survey on the mobile phone problems in the area, and were looking for feedback.

There will be copies of the survey in restaurants and retail outlets in Warburton, Reefton, and the group is also planning a letter drop.

Mr Smith said his government was investing $100 million to improve mobile phone coverage in outer metropolitan, regional and remote communities.

He said investment was expected to generate at least matching funding from local and state governments, communities and industry.

“I am working in conjunction with council to jointly advocate for our community,” Mr Smith said.

The closing date for lodging submissions is 5pm on Friday, February 28.

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