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Aurukun lobbies government to fix poor telecommunications

Mayor Pic 3 hi-res 2

Aurukun Shire Council is lobbying State and Federal governments to seek $700,000 in funding to upgrade and solve its currently inadequate telecommunications facilities.

The remote Indigenous Cape York Peninsula community, located approximately 830km from Cairns and with a population 1,400, is a growth township with housing, community, business and tourism infrastructure being rapidly developed.

Aurukun, which has no ADSL broadband service, currently receives its Telstra and communication services via radio transmission towers, which includes mobile calls, mobile internet and fixed data services.

However, the current radio transmission equipment at Aurukun can only support a total transmission capacity of 34Mb – which Telstra says is five times short of a modern, functional system for a community the size of Aurukun.

Aurukun Mayor Cr Dereck Walpo (pictured) said the slow and poor mobile internet connectivity was causing major, negative impacts in his community.

“In Aurukun, we are experiencing serious phone, internet speed and capacity problems, and we need it fixed as soon as possible,” said Mayor Walpo.

“Council, government agencies, stakeholders and residents are continually frustrated by this deficiency.

“We are a forward-thinking council and community, and we have big plans for the future, especially in relation to tourism and business.

“Unfortunately, we’re being held back at the moment by a poor telecommunications service.

“I have approached Telstra on this issue, and they say our community needs to come up with $700,000 to enable the infrastructure to be improved to fix our current problems.

“We’re now in a position that we are lobbying Federal and State governments, as well as Telstra, to see that the necessary funds are provided so that our telecommunications are of an equal standard to those experienced in smaller townships throughout Australia.”

Cr Walpo said he had already approached the Federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch MP, on the governments’ need to provide funds to rectify the problem.

“Mr Entsch has stated that he will approach Telstra to help find a solution, which we do appreciate,” said Mayor Walpo.

“However, if no action is achieved at Federal Member level, we will then reassess in December and go direct to the Federal Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull MP and other relevant Ministers, departments and agencies.

“Council is fully committed to increasing local business development, tourism, housing, health, employment and training of Indigenous people, as well as a better quality of life for Aurukun residents.

“We look forward to fully discussing this funding need with the hope of fixing a much-needed service, as we move rapidly forward into the 21st Century.”

Cr Walpo said many Aurukun residents had already complained to Telstra about the poor service.

“I know many of my community members who are very frustrated at their lack of a proper internet service,” he said.

“For example, numerous people have would like to do further education online, but that is impossible.

“Very basic internet usage such as banking is a major chore, while many residents would like to make video calls to family members, but that is also impossible.

“The effect on business is also very significant where basic tasks, that are taken for granted elsewhere in the country, are impossible in Aurukun.

“Every day, our mobile devices, programs and communications are becoming more and more data hungry, therefore our problem is growing exponentially worse.”

The radio transmission tower at Aurukun currently connects back to a relay tower at Beagle Creek, which connects to a tower at Weipa connected to the main fibre cable running through Cape York back into the core Telstra network.

In order to improve internet access in Aurukun, transmission capacity and carriage needs to be increased.

This will improve data speeds on Next G Mobile devices, may allow services such as ADSL for home users, and would also enable businesses and agencies to access further corporate internet access.

To improve the transmission at Aurukun, an upgrade of the radio transmission is the most suitable and cost effective solution.

The newer IP Radio equipment can offer up to 170Mbps capacity depending upon local and environmental factors, which is five times the current 34Mb capacity at Aurukun and will offer all the necessary improvements.

“I am aware of similar issues in other remote Indigenous communities around the Cape, including Wujal Wujal, Hopevale and Lockhart River, plus parts of the Torres Strait,” said Mayor Walpo.

“In Aurukun, we just want to receive an internet service that is a basic expectation in today’s modern world.”