Awaba residents label Telstra's month-long delay to fix landlines ‘not good enough’

Awaba calling: James McDonald, with wife Judith, said he can't use a mobile phone easily and feels "cut off". They have not had a landline since mid March or Internet access for 10 days. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
Awaba calling: James McDonald, with wife Judith, said he can't use a mobile phone easily and feels "cut off". They have not had a landline since mid March or Internet access for 10 days. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

JAMES and Judith McDonald are all too familiar with the importance of being able to use a phone quickly.

When Mrs McDonald returned home one afternoon last September, she found her husband, 70, unconscious on the floor of their living room and called Triple Zero.

“He was in hospital for 46 days and we nearly lost him,” she said.

Mr McDonald’s history of health problems has heightened the couple’s distress about having their landline unavailable for more than a month, with Telstra suggesting it won’t be restored for at least another fortnight. “It’s ridiculous,” Mrs McDonald said.

“It’s just not good enough.

“The landline is the easiest thing for him to reach, pick up and dial a number on rather than trying to use a stylus on his mobile.

“He’s an insulin dependent diabetic, has sleep apnoea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary hypertension, prostate cancer and cellulitis of the legs.

“These phone problems are not necessary and putting more tension into his life.”

Telstra area general manager Tricia Wilson apologised on Wednesday “for the delay in restoring landline services and we understand the frustration this can cause”.

It is understood efforts to fix a hardware fault at the Toronto exchange have been hampered by the presence of a material believed to be asbestos.

“There are strict guidelines we have to follow in the event that any asbestos containing material is found at the site to ensure there is no risk to the safety of our staff and the general public,” she said.

“We are working to complete the project as quickly as possible. There are options available for customers whose landline service has been affected including call diversion, which can be arranged by calling 132 200.”

Awaba Public principal Alison Tiplady said her school’s landline had been diverted to a mobile since April 7, which she said had made things “a little difficult”.

“It’s usually used as an emergency contact phone for parents and excursions, so this hasn’t been easy with different teachers going to different events with students. Teachers are having to use their personal phones.”

Mr McDonald said they called Telstra in mid-March after their landline and Internet access was disrupted.

A technician visited and their Internet access was restored.

They saw labourers digging outside on April 24.

“They told us they were laying a new conduit line and the technicians would be out that afternoon to lay the cables and reconnect the house.” 

But the technicians never came. 

Mr McDonald was told the problem at the exchange would be fixed by 7am on April 27, but this later changed to May 4.

He was told on Tuesday it would not be remedied until May 25.

“I found out there were between 79 and 330 customers in the same boat!” he said.

“If that was meant to make me feel any happier I’m not sure how.

“This is the third time we’ve been given a date and it’s wearing thin.

“Quite frankly we don’t know what to believe.”

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said it was “concerning that in 2018 we can have an entire community left without phone lines for over a month”.

“It’s also concerning that Telstra didn’t tell anyone about the problem until some of the fed-up residents started to contact me,” he said.

“I think the entire Awaba community deserves better and Telstra should be doing everything possible to get the problem fixed as soon as possible and to compensate those people affected.”

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