Kancoona phone blackspot in the spotlight

Indi MP Cathy McGowan.
Indi MP Cathy McGowan.

KANCOONA’S long-running mobile phone blackspot woes could finally be resolved if Indi MP Cathy McGowan’s call for funding comes through.

The Alpine Shire town has been named one of the top-three priority locations in the North East for new mobile phone towers, in an application submitted to the federal government’s $100 million mobile blackspot program.

Ms McGowan said she was “really optimistic” all three locations — including Tolmie and Lake Eildon — would be selected, though the federal government had the final say.

Kancoona’s struggle with poor mobile phone coverage came to a head during the Black Saturday blazes, when up to 140 properties in the area were left with no communication.

Since then residents have rallied and called on federal and state politicians to address the site, but with no results.

“I know there are a number of other towns in the Alpine Shire and Towong (that need better coverage) too, and to those I say this is just the beginning,” Ms McGowan said.

An Indi mobile black-spot committee mapped the region and found about 90 blackspots, which was then narrowed down to 11 high-priority areas — based on the fact Telstra was unlikely to elect to build towers in those areas without government support — and the top three were selected.

The government has committed $100 million across Australia to fixing blackspots.

Asked if she believed this was enough to address the problem, Ms McGowan said the government was “working on, wherever you are in Australia, being able to use your mobile phone”.

“It’s not just me, it’s not just Indi — it’s all the rural areas (that have this problem),” she said.

“I’m hoping in the next budget, and the one after that, the government will do for phones what it’s done for roads and put a billion dollars in, because that’s what it needs.”

Meanwhile, four wireless NBN towers have been completed at Baddaginnie, Benalla North, Benalla South and Tungamah.

Another six are under construction at Dederang, Kiewa, Kiewa South, Corryong, Ebden and Wandiligong.

Ms McGowan said she would continue to work with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, his office and local government on delivering co-location services in the next six months.

This would mean improved mobile phone coverage by tying mobile phone infrastructure to the NBN towers.