Grabben Gullen meeting opens up issue of coverage accountability

It doesn’t matter where you live, mobile coverage is always a problem.

Telstra representative Robert Gruveski.

Telstra representative Robert Gruveski.

At the crux it is a battle between your expectations and reality.

While it’s hard to align the two, it is safe to say that those in regional areas, in particular, those in Grabben Gullen and surrounds, are in a completely different ring.

Following a community meeting last week, it was clear that their expectations were realistic – consistent coverage for safety, businesses and education; the reality – well, that was something different.

Anyone who didn’t live in the area, the Telstra representatives, the politicians, even some councillors, could not be surprised at the reception on the night.

Yes, attendees were civil and fair, but it was clear that there were many frustrations.

The stories of struggle, some light-hearted, others more serious, would have swayed anyone. 

One man stood up and said that he kicked his Telstra box off his house after he had joined with Optus, annoyed at Telstra.

All this was directed at one man: Telstra representative Robert Gruveski (pictured).

It’s always tough to be the representative. Especially one that has to face the music he wasn’t always playing.

He responded to questions laced with blame and hostility with patience and understanding – all until one point.

“This might be controversial for you to hear,” Mr Gruveski said at the end of the night. “But there is no legislation that there must be internet coverage.

“There is no accountability or requirement on any internet or mobile providers... our first duty of care is to our staff.” 

The room silently digested his words, some perceiving it to be a deflection, others reminding themselves of commercialism and its place in our society.

If you pay for a service you expect to see the results. In this case it might be the number of bars on your phone or the phone calls you can make. But to assume the provider has complete control seems wrong.

While there is a review of Telstra’s Universal Service Agreement – which only covers the home phone network – politicians have yet to set a minimum coverage standard.

This world is becoming increasingly interconnected via internet and smarter technologies, but legislation doesn’t support that.

Instead of thinking about what we want, maybe we should also ask ourselves how we got here.