The NBN will soon be turned on in Eidsvold and Mundubbera. Photo Tobi Loftus / Central & North Burnett Times
The NBN will soon be turned on in Eidsvold and Mundubbera. Photo Tobi Loftus / Central & North Burnett Times Tobi Loftus

'Pulling their hair out': Town's digital disaster

FED-UP small business owners in Calen and surrounding areas are losing weeks worth of income in an ongoing battle they say has been caused by dodgy internet connection through the nbn network.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan said complaints about internet connectivity had been widespread across his electorate, and has now demanded action.

"We're in the digital age, but for a lot of my constituents, you wouldn't know it," Mr Costigan said.

"I'm not expecting a magic wand but I'm expecting people to be deployed into the field to rectify the faults and make the situation better."

INTERNET ISSUES: Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan with Virginia Robinson, co-owner of Kolijo Roadhouse, who is experiencing internet outages.
INTERNET ISSUES: Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan with Virginia Robinson, co-owner of Kolijo Roadhouse, who is experiencing internet outages. Supplied

Calen Motors co-owner Robyn Grieshaber estimates she has lost 12 days worth of income due to ongoing outages with the nbn, saying the issue had escalated in the past two months.

"When the internet drops, that interferes with the EFTPOS machine and Caltex Star Cards for fuel transactions," Ms Grieshaber said.

On several occasions Calen Motors has been forced to put up a sign at the business warning customers it won't be able to sell fuel unless they pay with cash.

"Once the nbn goes, we have no EFTPOS facilities to process anything," Ms Grieshaber said.

"It went out the other day when I was in the middle of processing a payment, so the person had to come back again to pay for their fuel later on."

She believes Star Card customers are now bypassing her business due to previous issues with paying for fuel using the card.

When she attempted to contact her nbn service provider Telstra about the issue, Ms Grieshaber said she was left on hold for 20 minutes and did not end up reporting it.

Calen Hotel co-owner Sarah Spreadborough said she had been experiencing similar issues with her internet over the past couple of years, which had recently worsened to "consistent outages every couple of days".

Ms Spreadborough said she had received text messages and emails from Telstra warning the nbn service would be interrupted for scheduled maintenance prior to the outages.

"We do get a warning, but there's nothing we can do because when it goes out, we lose everything," she said.

"Nobody can call us to make a table booking, they can't order takeaway food. We would have definitely lost business from it."

Ms Spreadborough said a majority of houses in the area had also been affected.

"It is shocking at St Helens Beach, worse than Calen," she said.

"You always hear them saying their internet is hopeless."

Harry Bruce Cartoon
Harry Bruce Cartoon Contributed

Ms Spreadborough has not reported the issue to Telstra because of the warnings about scheduled maintenance.

Mr Costigan, who noted many of those affected had not reported it directly to Telstra, said he had raised the issue with Telstra's regional general manager Rachel Cliffe.

"I think it's happening across a lot of communities ... the further away from suburbia you are, the easier it is for people to be forgotten and fall through the cracks," he said.

"People are pulling their hair out ... These are small business owners and it's like your whole world caves in."

The nbn is currently conducting upgrade works to help support services on the fixed wireless network in and around Calen.

"When we carry out an upgrade, the towers may be turned off at intervals throughout the day, which will affect some telephone and internet services in the area," an nbn spokeswoman said.

"We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause and we ask the community for its patience while these important works are carried out."

The works began last week and will continue until August 20.

Business owners experiencing issues with speeds or dropouts need to report a fault to their service provider who should be able to run tests to determine the cause of the problem.

The Daily Mercury also reached out to Telstra, which said the cause of the recent internet issues in Calen was due to nbn upgrades to the fixed wireless tower infrastructure that provides connectivity to internet and some landline telephones.

It said any Optus customers or other internet suppliers working in the area would also experience the same issue.