Thursday, September 23, 2021

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HomeIssue 11Telstra troubles in Alice

Telstra troubles in Alice

By OSCAR PERRI

Telstra is continuing its efforts to build a mobile phone tower to service areas south of The Gap with an NTCAT challenge to a decision blocking the construction.

Plans to build a 30 metre high monopole on private land in Ilpara were denied by the Development Consent Authority (DCA) in December last year.

The DCA judged that the benefits to the community that the tower would provide did not outweigh the damage to the “character and amenity” of the area that it would cause.

There were 33 public submissions noted in the meeting, including 14 objections and 17 in support, with objectors against the impact of the tower on local views, and supporters eager for an increase in wireless coverage and access to better services.

In January Telstra began a challenge to have the decision overturned at NTCAT, with the next hearing scheduled to go ahead after June 25.

Meanwhile Telstra has been given the second highest penalty ever imposed under Australian Consumer Law on Thursday.

The ACCC instituted the Federal Court proceedings against Telstra for admitted unconscionable conduct in November last year.

The Federal Court handed down a $50m fine after findings that five Telstra stores, including one in Alice Springs, engaged in unconscionable conduct towards Aboriginal customers.

Telstra admitted that from 2016-18 sales staff signed up 108 consumers, around 30% in Alice, to multiple post-paid mobile contracts which they did not understand and could not afford.

The court found that these staff manipulated Telstra’s credit assessment process, misrepresented products as free, and were likely to have received incentive payments for these sales.

The customers all incurred debts in the thousands, one up to $19,524, some of which were sold to third party debt collectors.

It is unclear which of these practices occurred in Alice Springs.

Telstra would not disclose details about specific individuals or changes at an individual store level, but have announced that all previously independently licensed stores, as was the case in Alice Springs, have now transitioned to full Telstra control.

“I want to apologise to all of the Indigenous customers affected by this. I am deeply and personally disappointed that we have let you down. We should have listened more carefully. We should have been more attuned to what was happening. We should have picked this up earlier.”

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said this in a letter announcing a new First Nations hotline and cultural awareness training and a new Indigenous policy statement.

The findings say responsible managers within the relevant arms of Telstra became “increasingly aware” of the practices, but this did not extend to the board and senior executives.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The telecommunications facility consisting of a 30 metre high monopole, with an overall height of 31.4 m when antenna are attached, six attached panel antenna, associated radio equipment, an 8 m x 10 m security fence and an equipment unit at the base of the monopole with a floor area of 7.14 m2, is not wanted in the position Telstra wishes to place it in Ilparpa.
    • It does not comply with the purpose of Clause 5.8.10 – Telecommunications facility of the Northern Territory Planning Scheme 2020 (NTPS2020), which states that telecommunications facilities are not to unreasonably detract from the amenity of the locality.
    • It does not comply with requirement 4 of Clause 5.8.10 which states that the location and design of a telecommunications facility minimises amenity impacts through sensitive siting, use of non-reflective finishes and appropriate landscaping.
    • It does not comply with requirement 5 of Clause 5.8.10 which states that amenity impacts of a proposal are appropriately minimised; and
    • It provides insufficient merit to justify the Development Application being consented to on the basis that the benefit to the telecommunications network does not outweigh the cost in terms of impact on the character and amenity of the locality.
    Ilparpa residents would like the tower placed on Ilparpa road, NOT Greatorex road.

  2. As a small independent licensed carrier in Alice Springs, we provide many Ilparpa residents with fixed point to point wireless and have been doing so for six years.
    We have a very loyal customer base in Ilparpa.
    There are however, areas of Ilparpa that we cannot “see” from” our equipment on West Gap because we need clear line of sight. For us to set up a repeater station, it’s not too difficult and has a very small an unobtrusive footprint, but alas, we can’t seem to get past the infinite amount of red tape.
    We use very low power equipment so as not to “blast” the area with high powered signals, which is what the big towers may tend to do. Hence the point to point.
    We could save thousands and “blast” the area, but that’s not what we consider to be corporately responsible action.
    As a result of an article in this paper some time ago, about internet, we approached Chansey Paech who actually came to see us, passed some contact details onto us and promptly moved on to other agenda items.
    We are always interested in expanding our customer bases in Ilparpa, Ross Highway and Connellan and we had approached the government on several occasions for assistance.
    Not financial assistance, but assistance with access to Crown Land.
    We have been able to provide high speed services to Kilgariff for many years but when we approached the government for assistance (not financial) but they again fobbed us off, even to to the point where they engaged another carrier after we had made the approach.
    We figured that having high speed internet available would attract people to the area and help sell the land.
    Interestingly we weren’t asking for their permission, just their blessing and a bit of assistance with the red tape.
    Our offering was free, the other carriers offer was commercial in confidence. I actually wrote to the Minister and they sent somebody down to see me.
    Back when we started, we spoke to the then Mayor and asked if we could use one of the lighting towers at Traeger Park.
    The response was that provided it didn’t upset Telstra we could. Of course it was likely to upset Telstra as we are competitors in some cases. Clearly they (Council) has not read Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act.
    Since then, nothing has changed for us from the Government side and we keep signing up new customers.
    As an FYI for those of you who have signed up for satellite, you may find that the latency is very slow. So not good for online gaming etc. Perhaps discuss with your rural groups before committing to any service, even OURS.
    So my questions are, is the government really interested or concerned with –
    A) Helping small local businesses?
    B) Assisting with the provision a much needed service to the black spots of Alice Springs?
    C) Happy to have competition, provided it doesn’t upset the “big boys”?
    Paul Lewis
    General Manager
    BIZCOM (NT) Pty Ltd.

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