Connection should only be a phone call away


AUDREY McCurdy and her daughter, Maura Harris, are facing a three-month wait for a fixed-line telephone.

They have been paying rent since early May on a house they are visiting rather than living in and last week the new residents of Woolgoolga's Tramway Drive were told their wait could stretch into mid-August.

Ms McCurdy suspects the long wait is related to her being an Optus customer and she wants to know why Telstra is sacking technicians if they can't keep up with the work.

"There was no phone in the house, but the landlord said there was a phoneline and there is a phone connection," Ms McCurdy said.

Optus has told her that they can do nothing because a Telstra cable upgrade is needed.

"We were told this would be done by July 14, but on July 12 they said it would not be done until August 18."

She said an approach to the telecommunications industry ombudsman (TIO) had produced no results.

"Mobile phones are just not good enough," she said.

"You have to walk halfway up our backyard to get any coverage.

"I'm worried because my daughter isn't well," said Ms McCurdy, who also has health problems.

"She's an asthmatic and an unstable diabetic with congestive heart failure and her daughter has just moved to Sydney.

Ms McCurdy said her daughter's mobile phone bill had rocketed to more than $300 while they waited for their fixed-line phone to be installed, although Optus had said they would give them a deduction on their bill.

She feels even more bitter because her fiance, a Telstra customer, had his phone connected within two hours of arriving at his new Woolgoolga address after he moved from Melbourne.

A spokeswoman for Optus corporate affairs said where Ms McCurdy was moving was a new estate.

She said Optus resold Telstra products; Telstra contractors were building the infrastructure and those were the dates given to Optus.

The regional manager of Telstra Countrywide, Michael Sharpe, said the original line had been vacant for some time, so the cable capacity had been used for other premises to make the most of existing capacity.

He said the telephone cabling for Woolgoolga's Tramway Drive was currently being upgraded and would be finished as soon as possible and the delay was not due to lack of technicians.

"My information is that it is not the number of people on the ground delaying work at present, but weather and possibly materials and machinery," he said.

He said the technicians doing the work did not know the identity of residents' phone providers, but under its universal service obligation, Telstra's separate wholesale division had to pay its competitors if work went over an extended period of time, so it was in Telstra's interest to finish the work as soon as possible. A spokesman for the telecommunications industry ombudsman said they were still investigating the case.

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