Residents of the Byron suburb of Sunrise face more than a year without internet access when their neighbourhood becomes a dead spot after north coast internet service provider Linknet closes on January 31.
The federal government has left Linknet without compensation after NBN Co took over local services. Unfortunately the NBN service does not cover all local residential and business customers.
Spokesperson for the Sunrise Residents Group Robyn Wilcox said the loss of internet service to the area has terrible implications for children still at school, for home businesses and activities such as banking online.
‘It has come as a shock to many families and business people who study or work from home in Sunrise and other parts of Byron Shire, as well as businesses in the Byron Arts & Industry Estate, that they will have zero internet access in just over four weeks’ time’, she said.
Ms Wilcox said that for most of Sunrise there has never been ADSL. ‘We don’t have line-of-sight for fixed wireless to any of the towers on St Helena or elsewhere’, she said.
‘We can’t get 4G, cable or satellite. Our saviour was Linknet. Now they have been forced out.
‘We have watched this happen over the last couple of years, but we still hoped this day would not dawn.’
Ms Wilcox says the resident group has contacted local federal MP Justine Elliot, who has written to the minister for communications. ‘We have contacted the telecommunications ombudsman.
‘We have contacted Telstra, Optus, TPG, Vodafone, World Without Wires, Advatel, Virtel and NBN Co. Everyone would like to help, but no-one can.
‘We have contacted the minister for communications a number of times with no response, and the prime minister’s office.’
‘The good news, says the NBN Co, is that we will have fibre to the node perhaps by April 2017.’
Ms Wilcox says that new Elements resort has solved the problem with their own pole. ‘They have had a pole put up by Advatel of Lismore, which points at the St Helena tower’, she said.
‘They [Elements] are advertising super-fast wi-fi. I asked Advatel whether they would allow Sunrise residents to use their wi-fi as a community goodwill gesture. They said they would ask, but we haven’t heard a thing since.’
Robyn said World Without Wires Broadband may be able to come to the rescue. ‘Wires Broadband has told me that if they can get Byron Shire Council’s approval, which they have requested in the past without success, they can mount their equipment on any power pole so long as it is high enough to have line-of-sight to one of their towers.
‘They said if I could find people who were willing to have relay towers on their property to let them know. So far three people have said they don’t care if they have an Eiffel Tower on their property, they would be willing in order to get internet.’
Ms Wilcox said this is heartening news, so long as Council agrees. ‘I had an email from Jane Laverty from Council late Christmas Eve asking for a list of affected customers as “troops were rallying”. I hope this is a solution, as we are out of options otherwise – up to six years without internet for businesses and families is inconceivable, despite the minister for communications believing otherwise.’
The Sunrise Residents’ Group is compiling a list of those affected by Linknet’s closure, as well as of those households that rely on USB stick modems (dongles) or use their mobile phone as a hotspot because there is no alternative.
‘Anyone interested in being kept informed of any possible solutions is requested to send an email (while they still can and while I can still receive emails) including name, street address and contact number, and whether they are a Linknet customer or use other means to connect to the internet to [email protected],’ Ms Wilcox concluded.