MP calls for compo scheme for TV interference
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie will lobby for a compensation scheme for low income households whose digital television reception have been adversely affected by the roll-out of the 4G mobile broadband services.
The NXT MP has written to Communication Minister Mitch Fifield asking him to consider the scheme after receiving a spate of complaints from residents experiencing reception problems in the Goolwa area.
Fast speed mobile broadband services are on the same UHF bandwidth as digital television and can interfere with reception by overloading masthead amplifiers (also known as signal boosters) on TV antennae.
The antennas pick up signals from frequencies outside of those designated for TV services.
“Our inquiries tell us this is a recognised problem in the Eastern States where the 4G network was rolled out first, causing significant problems to people living close to towers where fast speed mobile broadband services were activated,” Ms Sharkie said.
“Australian law lays the onus on securing TV reception squarely on the TV viewer which I think is pretty tough for low income households who look to free to air television for entertainment.
“Some residents near Goolwa have had to pay hundreds of dollars for special filtering equipment and new antennae plus labour for installation.
“In a few case people have had to install multiple filters or they have had to upgrade antennae after already spending money upgrading their televisions and antenna systems prior to the roll-out of the 4G.
“The Federal Government made $2 billion when it sold part of the UHF bandwidth to mobile carriers a few years ago a few years ago.
“The mobile carriers are now rolling out fast broadband and I consider the lack of compensation for this foreseeable problem as a serious oversight.
“I would like the Government to consider some form of scheme to help seriously affected viewers, particularly if they are on low incomes.
“One of my concerns is that technology is constantly updating and low income households could face large financial imposts on a regular basis to overcome issues.”
The Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA)has no authority under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to require mobile carriers to compensate affected viewers whose systems are susceptible to masthead amplifier overload from 4G service because the mobile carriers are operating within their licence conditions.
Reception problems were first raised with the Government in early 2015 but viewers were told that the issue had to be fixed with their own TV equipment.
The problem is usually associated with households within one kilometre of a mobile base station.
Households are advised to install a filter in the antenna or to replace the antenna with equipment that has a filter built in.
Removing a signal booster can also help, if it is no longer needed.
Ms Sharkie said she would also be asking the Minister why no attempt was made by the mobile carriers or the Government to communicate the launch of the 4G tower and its potential issues in affected communities such as Goolwa.
“Residents could have been alerted to where they could seek help for reception issues and what steps they might take,” she said.
“Some residents have suggested to me that if the problem was recognised and addressed local councils could have been compensated to buy filters in bulk to provide at minimal cost to low income families.”