In the cold at Grongy

A handful of residents turned up to have their say on digital communications at the Grong Grong hall on Friday. Photo: Kieren Tilly.

When it comes to digital connectivity and mobile phone services, Grong Grong residents feel they have been left out in the cold.

Grong Grong was the site of the Narrandera district’s only face to face community engagement session for the $400 million Regional Digital Connectivity program announced by the NSW government.

But, just a handful of residents turned up to make their voices heard to an afternoon session unable to be attended by local businesses and farmers busy with harvest.

The Regional Digital Connectivity program is being delivered through the $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund and is expected to be rolled out over four years.

It was announced earlier this year the three priority areas were internet and data with investigation of faster connectivity via data hubs and fibre cables for Wagga and Dubbo.

This is along with enhancing farm and water infrastructure to increase competitiveness and productivity in farming, and eliminating mobile black spots.

Grong Grong small business owner and farmer Nicole Ivanoff said the town and its residents had been left behind in terms of services.

“The main consideration when it comes to ensuring mobile phone coverage in the area is safety,” Mrs Ivanoff said. “We don’t only have black spots on the roads between Narrandera and Grong Grong, and local farming paddocks also have numerous black spots.

“When farmers are dealing with heavy machinery and they go into the paddocks to work they and their families need to know that heaven forbid something happens help is only a phone call away.”

Mrs Ivanoff uses her landline most of the time with regards to being contactable.

“Our household is on ADSL+1 and we are relatively lucky that we are as close as we are to the Telstra exchange, we don’t rely on our mobiles for calls or texting,” she said. “When it comes to mobile providers, both Optus and Telstra have their limitations in terms of mobile services.

“I use emails and Facebook messenger to keep in touch the majority of the time, I know some of our neighbours further away are reduced to using dongles or satellites to maintain communications.”

Mrs Ivanoff believes Grong Grong is equally deserving of metropolitan quality telecommunications as anywhere else.

“Providing these services are well overdue and the sooner the better, we defin-itely feel forgotten, I just don’t understand if this technology is available then why not Grong Grong,” she said. “If it can be done, then get on and do it!”

Twenty rural locations were selected for the engagement sessions, at which locals affected by mobile black spots and slow data speeds would have the chance to hear about the program promising to bring regional NSW up to metro quality infrastructure.

Connect Regional NSW aims to remove mobile phone black spots, investigate the future proofing of regional NSW, establish “backbone” digital infrastructure and increase connectivity and competitiveness for local agricultural concerns.

The information sessions are designed to give those in regional communities dealing with sub standard digital and mobile services, an insight into how the NSW government will upgrade those services.

The program is inviting those unable to attend their local sessions to have their say via www.tinyurl.com/ConnectRegional

Hard copies of the survey can be found at the Narrandera Shire Council office and the Narrandera Service NSW centre.

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