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3 May, 2022

Telecommunications fix to improve Cape York connectivity

A combined $3.5 million has been awarded to fix phone services in Cooktown, Lockhart River and Seisia.

By Matt Nicholls

Seisia local Talei Elu (inset) is rapt that her community will get better connectivity, but isn’t happy with Telstra.

THREE Cape York communities will today be announced as recipients of federal funding as part of the government’s Regional Connectivity Program.

Lockhart River, Seisia and Cooktown will all benefit from a combined $3.5 million to fix their broken or nonexistent telecommunications infrastructure.

And the good news for locals in those communities is that it isn’t dependent on the election result – the funding is in the budget.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, who will fly to Cooktown today for the announcement, said he was thrilled for the three communities who had lobbied hard for better phone reception and data capability.

“This is a welcome investment in our region,” he said.

“We all know and have heard about the telecommunications dramas in Lockhart River and this upgrade should make them a thing of the past.”

Lockhart River is still operating on the 3G network and mayor Wayne Butcher has been trying for years to get a better service for his community.

Lockhart River is plagued by outages due to outdated technology which often fails in the wet season.

Mr Entsch said almost $1.7 million would be spent on solving the Lockhart River problem.

“The project involves two microwave ‘hops’ from the fibre at Batavia Downs to Lockhart River – providing improved handheld coverage to an area of approximately 186km2,” the MP told Cape York Weekly.

SEISIA THRILLED

FOR those who live in Seisia, it can be almost impossible to get a decent signal.

Local go-getter Talei Elu has been pushing the federal government and Telstra for a solution and said she was thrilled there was going to be an outcome. However, she also slammed Telstra for its attitude.

“It’s frustrating that Telstra can’t commit to funding these things by themselves and rely on government funding to support remote Indigenous communities,” she said.

“Having access to a reliable mobile phone service is a basic need and a basic right.

“People in Melbourne or Sydney don’t need a government to make a commitment for what is a basic service.”

Mr Entsch said almost $1.1 million would go to Telstra for a macro base that would provide new coverage in Seisia, New Mapoon and other parts of the Northern Peninsula Area.

“The project will enable improved voice mobile coverage, wireless broadband and Internet of Things (IoT) network capability for local residents and support an increase in economic activity, particularly for local businesses,” he said.

COOKTOWN SPEEDS UP

SLOW data has been an issue for Cooktown residents, especially in the tourist season and Cook Shire Council backed a proposal to improve the service.

“The $772,400 Cooktown project will deliver a new Telstra macro cell mobile site, providing improved handheld coverage to Cooktown residents, businesses and visitors,” Mr Entsch said.

“The project will provide improved coverage to an area of approximately 245km2 and provide new 4G coverage to the west side of Cooktown, including main thoroughfares, Railway Avenue and Endeavour Valley Road and the airport.”

Mr Entsch said he was rapt that three projects in Cape York would get funding in what was a competitive program.

“The Regional Connectivity Program gets applications from all over Australia and there are communities that miss out but I am thrilled that these projects were successful because I know they will be life-changing for a lot of locals,” he said.

ARCHER TOWER

MEANWHILE, the small cell Telstra tower at Archer River is expected to be installed later this month.

Roadhouse owner Brad Allan said he expected technicians to arrive on site “within weeks”.

“We are expecting them in mid to late May,” he said.


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