It seems bizarre that discussion of the lack of mobile phone coverage in Black Springs has been going on for six years.
Reasons for the delay are numerous. There were the usual objections based on perceived health problems from living near a mobile phone tower, but Telstra have said that the tower proposed for Black Springs would be a low power repeater with a range of only about 500 metres, enough to cover the township and fill the current black hole. The usual towers have a range of about five kilometres, which is why the tower at Rotary Park can cover the whole of Oberon township and some of the surrounding area.
The main problem has been finding a location for the tower. Some landowners didn't want it on their property and the final choice was to place it at the Waste Transfer Station on Dog Rocks Road. This has the advantage of being higher than most of the township, allowing better coverage even with the reduced power of the small cell tower.
The problem then became that Crown Land want to charge Telstra roughly four times the usual rental for the use of the site. It's easy to cast Telstra as the villain when it comes to telecommunication problems but in this case Telstra is just as frustrated as everyone else. They want to provide the service, but not at an uneconomical cost to the company.
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Michelle Swaan, Secretary of the Black Springs Community Association, has been working very hard trying to get some sort of agreement or even compromise between all the parties involved. Not only has she contacted both State and Federal MPs but also the relevant Ministers for the departments involved. She has even had correspondence with the CEO of Telstra. The problem now is that if the matter isn't settled by June 30 there is the possibility that any government funding for the project will lapse and the whole process will have to start again, leaving the residents of Black Springs with no mobile phone coverage unless they drive a few kilometres out of town.
"I understand your frustration and I can assure you that the situation has also frustrated Telstra", said Telstra CEO Andrew Penn in a letter to Michelle.
"We are disappointed that we have been unable to reach an agreeable commercial arrangement and I encourage you to to continue to lobby the NSW state government for intervention, as we are." "I can confirm that we have submitted an extension of time request with the federal government and are still waiting on an answer."
Telstra have applied for an extension of the funding deadline, but unless it is granted the black hole will remain black and mobile phones in Black Springs will remain silent.
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