By Bonny Burrows
Vulnerable community members seeking psychological support were cut off from accessing essential services due to National Broadband Network connection issues, a small Pakenham business argues.
Lakeside Psychology is just one of a number of businesses within Lakeside estate which have had “nothing but trouble” with the NBN since it came to the area.
The family-owned business, along with Liberty Finance and reportedly The Mill, Emperor’s Delight and Star Noodles have all been facing issues with their phone and internet services due what they say is problems with the NBN.
Leah Henzen of Lakeside Psychology said she had been in contact with Telstra’s team since December 2016, trying to connect the business to the NBN network due to issues with the initial order which needed to be cancelled.
But despite numerous attempts to cancel the order via phone calls and in-store visits, as well as a promise the business “wouldn’t be disconnected”, Lakeside Psychology was on 7 February without phone or internet.
“There was no warning, no nothing. We just picked up the phone to nothing,” Ms Henzen said.
An angry Ms Henzen contacted Telstra who said it could take up to three weeks to be reconnected to the service.
In the meantime, new clients seeking mental health support were left unable to contact the business, something that made Ms Henzen feel sick to her stomach.
“The anxiety and build-up it takes to call a mental health service, only to get a disconnected phone, imagine how that must feel?” Ms Henzen said.
“We’ve probably lost 23 referrals in the time it’s been disconnected. That’s 23 people who might need serious mental health help who couldn’t get through.“
Fortunately for Ms Henzen, Lakeside Psychology was reconnected to its phone and internet service on 12 February following enquiries to Telstra by the Gazette.
“While we’re glad to be reconnected, it’s really sad we had to get the media involved to get help,” Ms Henzen said.
Bec Ferguson of Liberty Finance said she too had been plagued with communication issues relating to its NBN service.
“We’re with Optus and it’s been happening since October last year,” Ms Ferguson said.
“Sometimes it drops out every half an hour all day or other times you can go all day and it will be fine.”
Optus, she said, was aware of the issue and had put it down to problems with coverage.
“It’s very frustrating, we’re brokers, and we’re based online. There’s not much we can do with no internet,” Ms Ferguson said.
Fortunately for Liberty Finance, the business is due to relocate shortly, and for now is “just living with it”.
But Ms Henzen said small businesses shouldn’t have to “just deal”, arguing it was time Telstra and other major companies looked after the little guys.
“All along, it’s felt like we don’t matter to them, but we matter to our community, our clients and those that need help,” Ms Henzen said.
Telstra, NBN and Optus were all contacted for comment.
NBN spokesman James Kaufman said the company “regrets the problems” experienced by Lakeside customers.
“A further investigation of the infrastructure that serves the location is underway,” Mr Kaufman said.