Council asks Government to improve telecommunications in Yarra Ranges


Yarra Ranges Council is again calling for the Commonwealth Government to invest in improving telecommunication services in the region, with the impacts of multiple COVID-19 lockdowns and the 2021 storm events highlighting major connectivity issues.

The call has been renewed as part of Council’s Federal election campaign.

With Yarra Ranges facing year-round threats of severe weather events, better mobile and broadband accessibility for the region is vital, with the 2021 storm events in the Dandenong Ranges leaving many communities off the grid with no line out of the impact zone to reach 000 or loved ones.

Yarra Ranges Mayor Jim Child said addressing the connectivity issues across Yarra Ranges has been critical for years and needs to be fixed, not just to help residents in emergency situations but also in everyday life with local businesses and schools being impacted.

“Connectivity has long been an issue for many of our townships in Yarra Ranges, and was the number one frustration we heard from our storm impacted communities during our community discussions last year,” Cr Child said.

“34 of our communities lost mobile and broadband service over the first three days of the June storms, meaning they didn’t know what was going on, couldn’t reach out to loved ones, access emergency information or even dial 000 for assistance. “Improving connectivity means better access to education and employment opportunities, improved social connections and mental health, and greater preparedness for and responses to emergencies.

“Particularly as a metropolitan region, it is unacceptable that our communities are remain heavily disadvantaged due to poor telecommunications infrastructure.”

Cr Child said Council had undertaken its own in-depth study to gain a greater understanding of the mobile and broadband issues within the community, including a community survey of fixed and wireless internet services in homes and businesses, as well as blackspot ‘drive testing’.

“The data from our study showed that 4G service could not be accessed at 25 per cent of the sites and road segments we tested, while poor network quality and mobile blackspots were concentrated around the Dandenong Ranges, tourist roads such as the Black Spur, and areas toward Beenak and Hoddles Creek,” Cr Child said.

“These insights have been shared with the State and Federal Governments to identify and solve the current telecommunication issues within the region. Council is also working closely with carriers and other partners.

“We know we’re on their radar, and we’ve received some support to boost services through emergency events, but we urgently need more investment in our local networks,” Cr Child said.

Council’s election campaign is calling for improved mobile connectivity in five key areas with low or no mobile service, upgrades for NBN services across the municipality, and enhanced resilience to ensure services are available through power outages.

Cr Child said he was incredibly grateful to Yarra Ranges residents and businesses who had helped Council gather critical data to date.

“The data we’ve received is helping us determine a path forward,” Cr Child said.

“Until we fix these issues, our businesses will continue to struggle with substandard service and disruptions through extreme weather events, as will residents and students struggling with insufficient internet connectivity.”

/Public Release. View in full here.