Some fixed wireless internet customers not told of internet shutdown

Working on Scotchmans Tower. Photo Arne Hansen

Working on Scotchmans Tower. Photo Arne Hansen

Large areas of Bellingen’s fixed wireless internet footprint, including the North Bellingen Medical Centre, were out of action yesterday due to a planned upgrade of local NBN towers.

Some only discovered about the lengthy outages scheduled during working hours between February 6 and February 12 when their internet and phones stopped working.

The North Bellingen Medical Centre practice manager Sharna Waugh said they had not been warned by their RSP and the outage had been extremely disruptive and stressful.

“The internet and phones were down in our practice for over eight business hours with more outages ‘expected’ over the coming 10 days,” she said.

“We were having to rely on a single mobile phone for patient appointments, phone calls from specialists, radiologist and pathology; to notify patients of significant results and other issues.

“We rely on the internet for many important health and medication databases as well as government health resources, including the immunisation register and current health warnings.

“It affects our ability to provide the best possible health care to our patients when these services are disrupted.

“The government has ruined the whole plan of the NBN by not using fibre optic throughout the system. This is a crippled system at high cost. It is disproportionately disadvantaging rural areas and causing significant impacts to businesses and individuals in the country.”

Arne Hansen, an admin for the Facebook group Bellingen Shire NBN posted this update yesterday afternoon:

“NBNCo have contacted us with an update. Bellingen Heights (Scotchmans), Fernmount, Briarfield, Newry Forest and Valla towers are affected by this Fixed Wireless outage. There are 3 x 12hr outages scheduled for the 6-8th (probably no work yesterday due to rain), and 1x 8hr outage on the 12th. There may, depending on weather, be an extension to this period.

“Work to be done: replace head frame (antenna mounts), add more sectors and antenna on both Scotchmans and Fernmount towers, move microwave links for downstream towers.

“There may be antenna replacements/upgrades and readjustments necessary for some premises. You will be contacted by your internet retailer if you fall into this category.

“For critical applications (e.g. the Medical Centre), NBNCo recommend 4G modem backups that are offered by many internet retailers, including Telstra with their "Smart Modem 2". This device includes a 4G sim card and antenna for internet and phone service backup during Fixed Wireless outages. It should be noted that the Medical Centre will move across to fibre (FTTC), scheduled for the end of March.”