Wee Jasper's plea for connection

Wee Jasper residents have been left without any form of communication following Telstra upgrades. Photo: Kate Howarth.
Wee Jasper residents have been left without any form of communication following Telstra upgrades. Photo: Kate Howarth.

It has been two weeks and two days since the 80 plus residents of Wee Jasper have been without landline communication, leaving them completely isolated.

“It’s been really frustrating and quite scary,” local Wee Jasper resident Michelle Waters said. 

“We have had days of temperatures in excess of 35 degrees, we haven’t had rain in over five weeks and we’re isolated out here, it really is scary.”

On March 1 Telstra cut the landline connections to the residents of Wee Jasper for upgrades to the lines. When residents were still not connected on Friday of last week, they contacted Telstra, which confirmed the reconnection would occur anywhere between March 9 and March 15.     

“In Wee Jasper, there is no mobile phone coverage, there is no way of reaching the outside world unless you have satellite internet, which not many people have,” Mrs Waters continued. 

“Living out here you expect a certain amount of isolation, but you don’t expect in 2016 to have no communication at all.”

A Wee Jasper fire truck has been parked out the front of the Wee Jasper Primary School to access emergency radio reception. However, Sunday afternoon a storm hit the small community and a lightning strike sparked a fire. 

“It was a grass fire that was fairly easy to put out, but it took the fire truck away from the village, this is just not fair.”

A Telstra mobile phone tower is seen in North Sydney September 15, 2005 in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images.

A Telstra mobile phone tower is seen in North Sydney September 15, 2005 in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images.

Local resident Suanne Grieve is frustrated by the lack of response from Telstra. 

“They keep telling us that there isn’t a problem,” she said.

“They don’t actually believe that we have no connection at all.”

Speaking to other residents around the Wee Jasper community, Mrs Grieve found she was not alone in her grievances.

“I don’t think anyone is connected. I have phoned all resources and made complaints about it, I finally took my complaints to the Ombudsman,” she continued. 

“Today [yesterday] I received a call from DODO, my provider, who told me they will send a technician out around 15 -17 of March!”

The Tribune contacted Telstra, which stated the issue began with a hardware fault at the exchange. 

A spokesperson from Telstra claimed that the fault was repaired but the impact of the subsequent storm last week then caused further issues to services. 

In a statement, Telstra wished to apologise for the time taken to resolve the issue and said that services would be restored in the following days.

“We wish to apologise to customers in the Wee Jasper area for the issues they have experienced with their services,” a Telstra spokesperson said. 

“We have technicians currently working to restore impacted services and we expect these to be resolved over the next two days.”

Both state and federal Yass Valley members, Angus Taylor and Pru Goward were contacted by local residents to advocate for the same communication rights. 

The federal member for Hume said he was extremely disappointed these problems are persisting. 

“I am frustrated. The community is frustrated and well should they be. Having reliable landline phone access is a basic service,” he said. 

“Telstra is bound by service obligations to ensure customers have this reliable access, but I seriously question whether the company is doing enough to meet this standard, especially in the more isolated parts of my electorate. 

“The Wee Jasper situation demands an urgent please explain from Telstra. I am seeking assurances from them that this doesn’t happen again.”

Goulburn MP, Ms Goward was extremely shocked about the poor standards of communication in Wee Jasper. 

“In this day and age a community like Wee Jasper, so close to the Nation’s capital, could be isolated due to a lack of mobile and landline coverage. It is particularly troubling to be without this access at this time of the year with it being so dry and so prone to bushfires,” she said.  

“I will be standing with the Wee Jasper community to advocate for better mobile and landline coverage.”

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