No service to call for help

January 17, 2018

Andrew Freshwater is still recovering from an on-farm accident in which both his legs were broken, but he was unable to phone for help.

Tocumwal cattle and sheep farmer Andrew Freshwater says a lack of reliable mobile phone coverage on his farm could have cost him his life.

With two broken legs and other injuries following an on-farm accident on January 4, Mr Freshwater said he was left stranded and in pain when he did not have enough service coverage to even call 000.

He was standing on top of a silage feed-out wagon at his farm on Taylors Rd, when springs holding barrels of hay gave way and pushed him off. He fell almost four metres to the ground.

It was an hour before he was discovered by his wife, who rushed him to Tocumwal Hospital.

Given his injuries, Mr Freshwater was then transferred to Shepparton and later a Melbourne hospital where he was treated for the injuries and what he said was ‘‘severe hydration’’.

Mr Freshwater, who is still in Melbourne, said his injuries required surgery and he will now have rehabilitation to ‘‘learn how to walk again’’.

He does not expect to be able to return home for another two months.

Mr Freshwater said while the injuries were severe, the biggest ‘‘pain’’ had been trying to flag the issue with his service provider — Telstra.

‘‘My phone only had one bar of 4G service (when I fell), which means nothing,’’ Mr Freshwater said.

‘‘You should be able to have access to basic emergency services like triple zero.

‘‘I pay $150 for my plan and 80 gigabytes of data, and we just burn right through it because of our location.

‘‘I’m sick and tired of these rubbish political responses I’ve received from Telstra talking about how they’re rolling out the NBN; it’s all nonsense.

‘‘I just want a straight answer from Telstra admitting its service is crap.’’

Mr Freshwater said he had been corresponding with Telstra through private messages on Facebook since his accident, but that he is yet to receive a satisfactory response to his concerns.

When the Southern Riverina News contacted Telstra’s Western & Northern Victoria regional manager Steve Tinker, he said all data available to the company indicates the Tocumwal service is satisfactory.

‘‘The area in and around Tocumwal has good 3G and 4GX coverage,’’ Mr Tinker said in the written response.

‘‘A number of factors influence coverage, including local topography, obstructions such as trees and other structures and building materials, as well as how far you are from the nearest base station.

‘‘We’re happy to sit down with our customers and provide advice on how to maximise mobile coverage already available in the area.

‘‘Telstra is committed to providing improved and expanded mobile coverage to regional, rural and remote Australia.

‘‘As the provider that has invested in delivering more mobile coverage across Australia than anyone else, we know how important access to mobile services is for people to be able to stay in contact with family and friends and run businesses effectively.’’

Mr Freshwater’s view of the service coverage near Tocumwal is in stark contrast.

He said he received better phone reception while travelling overseas.

‘‘Everyone has the same problem Australia-wide, once you drive out of the major cities,’’ Mr Freshwater said.

‘‘There is nowhere else in the world where this happens. I’ve stood on the border of Kazakhstan and China in rural Asia and I had better signals than what I have in this region.

‘‘I think Telstra just needs to get serious and stop coming up with excuses.’’

Mr Freshwater has called on Telstra to install new phone towers in rural and remote Australia which have a stronger service signal.

‘‘The phone towers in Tocumwal are meant to have a range of 35km, but we live 12km from Tocumwal and have awful service,’’ he said.

‘‘Telstra should consider installing the large phone towers that are used in mining towns which can have coverage of up to 80km.’’

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