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April 24, 2024

Telco blames Mullumbimby tower outage on arson

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Was it electrical problems, or was it an arsonist that took down the Mullum Telstra tower? While services were restored on Monday, Telstra customers in Mullumbimby were left without a service since March 18, adding to the already stressful post-flood clean-up and rebuild.

Telstra’s media team, along with local federal MP, Justine Elliot (Labor), were quick to say it was arson – but the police so far have only said they are treating the fire as suspicious.

A cohort of Mullum residents have consistently protested against 5G installation for around two years, with vigils being held onsite behind the town’s post office. The Echo understands that during the floods, however, Telstra took the opportunity to install 5G when the protesters were unable to keep the vigil.

A police media unit spokesperson told The Echo the case is being handled by Tweed Byron detectives. They urge anyone with information to contact them.

A temporary tower has been installed for 3G and 4G mobile coverage, a Telstra spokesperson said.

‘The impact across the town was significant,’ said Jenelle Stanford, President of the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce.

‘Ninety per cent of businesses had no Eftpos which cuts business by at least 50 per cent. For local businesses that are just trying to keep their doors open and get back to business following the flood it felt like a kick in the teeth. It crippled us again, it is just exhausting.’

The destruction of the tower also meant that the link to the Billinudgel tower was taken out leaving the north of the shire without comms.

‘We have managed to restore the radio link to the Billinudgel tower yesterday which restored services to Billinudgel and the North of the Shire,’ a Telstra spokesperson told The Echo this morning.

Vandalism not condoned says 5G opposition

Corrina Beacham, from Northern Rivers For Safe Technology (NRFST) says her group does not condone vandalism, or violence, and are ‘aware this act has severely hindered those who rely on this tower for communications’.

She told The Echo, ‘It is very pre-emptive of Telstra and [other] media to be pointing fingers of blame before a proper investigation has been completed. It’s interesting to see how quick Telstra has jumped on social media with bizarre assertions, yet were totally silent for the three years we asked legitimate, valid questions pertaining to safety and health issue being raised world-wide. Let’s not forget the many cities who’ve banned this new technology, as it is untested and has [potenitally] serious implications long-term on our health and the environment’.

Tashi Lhamo, also from NRFST supported Ms Beacham’s comments and added that, ‘Telstra has shown a complete disregard for the community, as they took the opportunity to install 5G infrastructure, despite a moratorium against the upgrade, that was unanimously passed by Byron Shire Council in March 19, 2020’.

Lack of emergency disaster communications plans

Local federal MP Justine Elliot doubled down on calling the tower a deliberate act, despite The Echo asking ‘How is this responsible commentary, given the possibility of other causes?’

The Echo also asked Ms Elliot whether there is any legislation that requires robust telecom infrastructure to withstand such natural events, given it appears regulator, the AMCA, say it is not required to do so.

‘Do you know if such laws exist and if not, why doesn’t it? Will you lobby for that?’

She told The Echo, ‘The recent devastating floods showed how both the Federal and State Governments have failed our region – failed to plan, failed to act, and have failed to deliver enough funding to support our community’.

‘One of greatest failures was the Morrison Government’s lack of any emergency disaster communications plans when our entire communications capacity collapsed with more 60,000 losing access to the NBN, thousands unable to use their mobiles and unable to phone 000. This resulted in lives being put at risk and thousands isolated with no capacity to contact anyone.

‘Locals were rightly horrified that the Morrison Government had no capacity or plans put in place to help us. Instead, it fell to the community to find solutions such as installing satellites themselves at community centres.

‘What we saw was thousands suffering without vital communications through the flooding crisis and I remain deeply upset and disgusted at the deliberate burning of a phone tower in Mullumbimby. As a result of the arson attack, locals relying on their mobile phones faced the unacceptable situation where mobile phone services were crippled in and around Mullumbimby.

‘Authorities have advised me that this fire was deliberately lit, and a criminal investigation is underway. If anyone has any information to assist police in their investigations they are encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

‘We have just lived through the experience of a lack of communication through an emergency – when people could not use their phones and were stranded without rescue. This deplorable act by criminals has further crippled our infrastructure when our community has suffered so much from the flood’, Justine added.

NBN failure

Meanwhile, Tweed Heads Branch ALP Secretary, Jim Gamack, told The Echo that at their March 2022 meeting they resolved ‘to call on the Minister for Communications, Mr Paul Fletcher (MP), to institute an enquiry to examine the mass failure of NBN and the mobile phone network on the entire Far North Coast during the recent flood emergency’.

He told The Echo, ‘Such an enquiry to canvas the inability to receive critical warnings of imminent danger and inability to contact emergency services when in danger. We seek a review of the flood vulnerability of both the NBN and the mobile network, the failure of which exacerbated the scale of the disaster on the Far North Coast. We consider an emergency communication system that only works in good weather is useless’.

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  1. Time for Justine Elliot to go. There is yet no evidence it was deliberately lit. She’s a fool. It would be virtually impossible to do given the physical build of the tower. Firies have stated as such – it’s virtually impossible. Much more likely it was Telstra worker negligence, faulty equipment, both, or an inside job designed specifically to enhance and enact stricter domestic terrorism laws for people interfering with 5G comms.

    • Mate, you have no idea what are you talking about.
      Do you have any idea about how an antenna works, do you think it’s plugged like your heater? We had bushfires and no antenna burnt down and you were able to manipulate your mobile. Have you got any idea how much deliberate vandalism is going on in these towers?

  2. Why is Hans Lovejoy allowed to write about 5G? His weakness for taking seriously the paranoid nonsense about 5G is well known.

  3. The anti 5G group(s) and a few individuals of the same mindset do NOT represent the majority of Mullumbimby residents, and never will. It’s astounding that such a small group can achieve such prominence, and that Telstra has such feeble security around the tower. What is gobsmacking is the “true believers” ignorance about the physics, and risks of 5G, which relies on vastly reduced non-ionising electromagnetic radiation strength compared to 4G and in turn to 3G. If there was any evidence of the harms feared, it would be a massively evident in the statistics across the health systems of the vast majority of nations that now rely on mobile telephony. It’s not evident .. oh and that’s a conspiracy too? Get out of your rabbit holes and look around you at the real world, and maybe worry about something real, like climate change, or crazy autocrats like Putin.

    • On 5G.
      The large “5G Cell Towers” rely on “Small Cells” being required in line-of-sight of each other at around 140m apart in order for this to work. Small Cells transmission can’t penetrate walls. In a city the small cells can bounce signals off buildings but in suburbs and rural areas Small Cells will have to be attached to existing power/light poles. I see 3 obvious problems with this:

      1. In a large flood event like we had recently, the poles went under water so the Small Cells, being underwater, will be both useless and destroyed, adding to the infrastructure clean up bill and no comms.

      2. In a storm, like we’ve been having up here already, wind knocks down power and light poles which will knock out the 5G and add to infrastructure clean up costs and … no comms. Also, 5G Small Cells don’t connect well in heavy rain.

      3. Trees block the line-of-sight 5G signal, so in order for the transmission between Small Cells to work, trees between Small Cell stations will need to be removed or cut back and maintained which will either cost us by removing a lot of trees or add to the infrastructure maintenance bill.

      Add to this the fact that Telstra said they had “taken the opportunity to upgrade the tower” and yet they failed to add any kind of back up (similar to the Woodburn debacle), then I’d be asking Telstra to explain why their system is so inept. But hey, as long as you’re able to watch “Byron Baes” on Netflix on your new “smart” phone without buffering, who cares?

      • Max,

        You have no clue about 5G. What you wrote there has nothing to do with Mullumbimby vandalism.

        I’ll just say one thing. The 5G at this site isn’t a 5G small cell system. What this mean is, what ever you copied and pasted from somewhere means a you are pretending to know something about 5G, when the fact is just another bunch of bla bla bla…

  4. Despite what the local apologists for the anti-5G group keep saying, a Telstra techie at the site confirmed for me today that the Police informed them that they have a suspect for this act of arson and are pursuing the matter. He also informed me that their (Telstra) sole focus is restoring reception.

  5. For the past 8 months or so the 5G in Mullumbimby has been on and working but the Telstra, coverage map there is zero 5G coverage around Mullumbimby yet the map shows service around Oceans Shaws, Brunswick, Bangalow and Byron. I just thought Telstra were trying to outsmart the local anti 5Gers.

  6. Hey El Micko… It’s very important to read. Obviously that wasn’t a Small Cell tower. Thanks for reading though… maybe you can look it up yourself 🙂

  7. If vandalism occurred, I don’t condone it.

    Whatever your views on 5G are, is it not important for a massive corporation involved in a community dispute, to fight that dispute with clean hands?

    Take away the fact that it is 5G, or anything to do with Telecommunications.

    Let’s say it is some other contentious works where many people in community support it, and a solid yet minority of the community don’t.

    A new shit works, a new prison, a new police training facility, a new highway, a new rubber factory, bus depot, airport, TV transmission antenior, coal mine, a small nuclear facility, … just anything that a some not insignificant proportion of the community will have strong opposition to, and which many may support.

    Along comes a natural disaster which requires the entire community to respond.

    Now should the massive company use the natural disaster suffered by the community as an opportunity to implement their agenda in a situation where the section of the community is unable to assert their natural and democratic right to protest the development?

    As in, given there is a stoush between a section of the community and a large corporation, and this public-interest stoush is occurring in the public court of the community, then should not the big corporation engage with the community opposition in a manner that enables the community process to be one that addresses the issues, no matter what the eventual process is?

    How do you want big corporations to interact with your community?

    Remove the 5G from the content, and consider the principles that might underpin a public interest stoush in a community.

    What does that look like? And what might not be fair conduct by a massive corporation?

    To start with, they’ve got the law on their side, the establishment, every big corporation is a beneficiary of the ‘state capture’ and ‘regulatory capture’ that is a hallmark of western “democracy”.

    They are empowered to get their interests met, and there’s thousands of examples where communities interests are subservient to corporate interests.

    So, whilst the vandalism, if that is what happened, is not supported, where is the criticism and the contextualisation, say by David Helipern, that gives appropriate weight and context to the fact that Telstra capitalised on a natural disaster.

    Did not Telstra frustrate the community proceedings thereby quashing the section of community’s natural rights?

    That may not justify the alleged vandalism, but it certainly contextualises the act. Because there was a community process going on.

    Wherever you fall on the 5G issue, the content within the 5G issue is not the issue.

    The issue is what are your principles in regards to the power your community should have on issues that affect it, and how do those principles inform the types of processes you may want to support, particulalry in David and Goliath type community problems.

    For as far as I can see, the corporations are ruling our communities, and if we support their hegemonic processes when we happen to agree with their agenda, then they are making the rules, with which we are giving our tacit consent.

    If that is what you chose to support, then that is your choice.

    But if you don’t support corporatist rule of communities, then be clear on your principles and the processes that your principles inform, park the contents of a particular argument and support the process – whatever the outcome. As next time you might be in the David camp.

    Whatever the outcome of that argument will be, will hopefully be the result of processes that are underpinned by your principles of community empowerment, and not that of corporate hegemony.

    It may well be that the result of a community process is aligned withy corporate interests. Or not. What matters is how you get there. And that along the way, it’s not ‘divide and conquer’, ‘rinse and repeat’.


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