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As bushfires continue to burn across the country, a reliable phone service quickly becomes a lifeline.

ACCAN is aware of reports of network outages due to blackouts and power failures in bushfire affected areas. It’s important to know that unless you have a battery back-up, your NBN home phone will not work during a power outage. As a precaution, it is best to have a charged mobile phone that you can use during a power outage.

For more tips on staying connected during emergencies, read ACCAN’s blog post.

Last updated: 17/01/2020

Connectivity and coverage

Telcos have been working to fix coverage issues where possible, and have provided backup options to keep people connected:

  • Telstra is providing pre-paid sim cards at a number of evacuation centres across New South Wales and Victoria.
  • Payphones have been made free nationwide to allow people to make local, national and standard mobile calls.
  • Free Wi-Fi is also available at locations where Telstra payphones are equipped to provide this.
  • Telstra has also rolled out a Satellite Cell on Wheels in Mallacoota (VIC) and a Cell on Wheels (COW) in Corryong (VIC). This technology, along with satellite phones, is used to provide connectivity for emergency services.

 

Some Optus towers have been impacted in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. A full list of affected sites is available on Optus' website.

NBN Co is also taking steps to reconnect affected communities by providing free Wi-Fi at selected bushfire-affected locations across NSW, VIC and SA.

Further bushfire updates from NBN Co can be found here.

Assistance packages

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have worked with the NSW Government to provide customers in bushfire-affected areas of the state with unlimited access to emergency service websites and apps. Eligible customers will not use their mobile phone data allowance when visiting:

Telstra Customers

Telstra is providing customers affected by bushfires immediate short-term help, as well as longer-term support. This includes:

  • Free call diversion to any mobile or fixed phone number
  • One-off credit to the value of $100 (including GST) for Telstra mobile customers who do not have a Telstra home phone (limited to one mobile phone per Telstra mobile account).
  • One-off credit to the value of $500 (including GST) to the customer’s Telstra fixed phone account to help cover the costs of the following, if required:
      -   Connection of a Telstra fixed phone service at one temporary residence
      -   Re-connection of a Telstra fixed phone service at the customer’s original permanent premises

 

To see if your suburb is eligible for support, visit the links below:


To register for support, call Telstra on 13 22 03.

Optus Customers

Optus has announced that bushfire affected customers can access Disaster Assistance Support. This means they can access:

  • Free call diversions from an Optus fixed home phone to any mobile or fixed number
  • Extended timeframes for bill payments
  • Bill waivers in instances of extreme financial hardship; and
  • Free suspension, relocation or cancellation of a fixed service
  • Free prepaid credit which can be organised at your local store.

 

For more information call Optus’ dedicated hotline for volunteer firefighters and customers affected by the bushfires on 1300 301 671.

Vodafone Customers

Vodafone has taken steps to ensure that customers in fire affected areas are not automatically disconnected if they fall behind on their bill payments.

Vodafone has a range of options available under their hardship policy for any customers who have been directly impacted by the fires. Those customers can apply for financial assistance by contacting Vodafone’s Financial Hardship team on 1300 650 405.

Aussie Broadband Customers

During disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones, Aussie Broadband proactively maps customer addresses against known affected areas and contact them to offer assistance.

Available support for impacted customers includes:

  • Initial services/discounts valued at up to $250 for any customer who has lost their home or been significantly impacted by disaster
  • Other support by individual arrangement

 

By using the MyAussie app or portal, or speaking to the Aussie Broadband team, customers can:

  • check if power or connection is still online to their property
  • divert their VoIP phone number at any time, free of charge
  • set up a payment plan at any time, without the need to speak to anyone
  • organise a relocation of their service

If you have been impacted by the recent bushfires and have not yet heard from Aussie Broadband, contact them on 1300 880 905.

Volunteer Firefighters (RFS, CFA, DFES)

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have announced they will waive bills for volunteer firefighters for December and January in appreciation for their efforts in protecting communities around Australia.

  • Telstra – Call 13 22 03.
  • Optus – Call 1300 301 671.
  • Vodafone - Call 1300 650 410 or visit a Vodafone store and quote your official volunteer ID number.

 

Aussie Broadband also offers services/discounts valued at up to $80 for any volunteer working for extended periods on disaster relief