Spring Ridge residents say continual phone problems are costing them money, peace of mind and time, as town-wide outages can only be reported as individual faults.
Spring Ridge Local Action Group (LAG) convenor Vicki Donnelly said the town had been battling with Telstra for about 10 years over poor reception for landlines and mobiles, and in October and December had no connection for up to four days at a time.
One business reports missing out on half its income during outages, and locals fear not being able to call for help in an emergency.
Telstra's regional general manager Mike Marom said the issue in October was due to "loss of mains power at the local telephone exchange due to storm activity" and in December it was "related to intermittent transmission issue affecting the link between the local exchange to the main regional exchange at Gunnedah".
"Telstra aims to repair all reported faults as quickly as possible. However, the length of time to fully restore services can vary depending on the extent and ease of the repair required, the availability of network crews in times of high demand (i.e. storms) and if it was a disaster situation, if the site is safe to enter," Mr Marom said.
Ms Donnelly said loss of reception was "quite common" and Telstra had told her she could not report a whole town outage - instead each resident had to report their own issue.
"I think I spent three hours out on the side of the road talking to Telstra on more than one occasion," she said.
"We couldn’t convince Telstra it was the whole village.
"Technicians were sent out to fix individual phone lines - not the problem that the whole village was experiencing."
I couldn't care less about NBN - I’d just be happy with a mobile service that works.Tom Archer, Royal Hotel
Ms Donnelly said it could leave residents in a dire situation if they needed an ambulance; even when the phones were working, reception was poor at the best of times.
"We need decent mobile service out here," she said.
"It’s a safety issue: we’ve got old people and people with ill health, and if they get sick in the night, they can’t get out on the side of the road and call an ambulance."
The Archers at the Royal Hotel said they paid $12,000 a year for an eftpos machine, used for "at least half" of the pub's transactions.
"We survive on turn-over … and [loss of reception] turns half our income off for four or five days," Tom Archer said.
Mr Archer said they allowed regulars to pay their bills when eftpos was up and running again, but this was a problem if customers were passing through.
"A lot of transport drivers will use the hotel for meals … We’re one of the very few places they can get a meal nearly as far down as Forbes … [and] a lot of them rely on eftpos," Mr Archer said.
"What do you do when you’ve got a driver … [and] you know he’s not going to get a meal anywhere? You can't turn them away."
The pub also has the "only ATM in a 40km radius".
"The simple fact is, there’s no banks around. No one’s got access to cash other than our ATM," Mr Archer said.
The pub owner said locals "have had enough" and deserved better.
"We are not that isolated … and we're living like we’re 300km from Ayers Rock," Mr Archer said.
"We’ve got the same obligations as Pitt Street in Sydney [but] the government hasn't got the same obligation to us.
"Everyone needs communication and it’s not a huge thing … It’s not rocket science.
"I couldn't care less about NBN - I’d just be happy with a mobile service that works."
There are no current plans to upgrade coverage from these sites but Telstra can offer advice to local residents.Telstra spokesperson
Mr Marom said residents in the Spring Ridge area "may receive Telstra mobile coverage from base stations located in Gunnedah or from Mullaley" and the company was not planning to upgrade telecommunications in the area.
"There are no current plans to upgrade coverage from these sites but Telstra can offer advice to local residents about personal antenna or booster options that may improve mobile coverage at their property," he said said.
Ms Donnelly said she discussed the ongoing issue with Liverpool Plains Shire Council (LPSC) at the latest community advisory group meeting at Willow Tree and it was on the town's "wish list with council".
LPSC mayor Andrew Hope said it was time the companies responsible paid more than lip service to people’s concerns and lifted their game to better meet the community’s expectations.