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FOLK festival organisers have called for upgrades to Port Fairy’s mobile phone coverage after thousands of music lovers were left out of touch with the rest of civilisation.
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With about 15,000 extra phones on the network, most people could not receive or make calls for the duration of the Port Fairy Folk Festival.

The limited coverage left many with a barrage of text messages and missed call notifications after finally leaving the town yesterday.

Festival director Jamie McKew said mobile service, including web browsing on smartphones, had made calls almost impossible at times throughout the long weekend.

“If I was the CEO of Optus I’d be ashamed of the service I’d provided to 50,000 people over four days,” Mr McKew said. “It was just pathetic.

“To have the world’s greatest folk festival in a small town in Australia and be completely out of communication is ridiculous.

“I’d love to see world-class coverage rather than feeling like we’re in the Dark Ages.

“It made it really difficult for a lot of people.

“Fortunately Telstra had good service but it was overloaded because others wouldn’t work.

“It would’ve been quicker to have a carrier pigeon.”

Moyne Shire councillor Mick Wolfe said the council, police and festival committee would discuss phone service upgrades at a debriefing.

“It happened a few years ago when it seemed to jam up,” he said.

“As far as I know Telstra upgraded their towers around here but it just seemed on occasion things would jam up again.

“As a group we’ll no doubt approach Telstra and ask them to consider something permanent or temporary.

“In this day and age everyone has a mobile phone they want to use, but if that’s the weekend’s biggest issue we’re doing all right.”

Moyne Shire mayor Jim Doukas said certain carriers had coverage issues in Port Fairy all-year round.

“The main telephone carriers should’ve done something about it by now,” Cr Doukas said. “You would’ve thought they’d been on the job for a town like Port Fairy with a high tourist rate.

“It’s not as if they don’t know about it. In this day and age, some business people work seven days a week and want to keep in contact with their business.

“They’ve got to get in their car and drive up the road to use their phone — that’s ridiculous.”

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