Internet holds up during cyclone

Internet holds up during cyclone

News
 The Crisp Wireless station at Beacon. The service was in demand during ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja.

The Crisp Wireless station at Beacon. The service was in demand during ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja.

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Powerlines were still down on farmland in the Mingenew, Perenjori and Northampton areas last week - causing some delays to seeding for some broadacre farmers.

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DURING ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja a few weeks back, power was lost to thousands of households in areas from Kalbarri through to the Wheatbelt, taking with it much-needed internet access.

Powerlines were still down on farmland in the Mingenew, Perenjori and Northampton areas last week - causing some delays to seeding for some broadacre farmers.

Despite the devastation left in the wake of severe weather event, there was a good news story for a local start-up internet service - Crisp Wireless.

Based in Narrogin, the network has been expanding its reach across regional WA since 2017.

While other providers were not available during the aftermath of the severe winds, which reached 170km/h per hour, the Wheatbelt service provider was still able to operate, with victims of the devastation being able to gather at Crisp users houses or facilities and access the service to communicate with family and friends across the country, as well as run their businesses.

Crisp Wireless chairwoman Maree Gooch said they were surprised that the towers stood up to the brutal winds but happy that people were able to make use of the service during the difficult time.

She said the towers were solar powered and had back up batteries that had enough power to last three days.

Crisp Wireless user Dannelle Foley, Bencubbin Truck and Auto, said the cyclone and previous storms "showcased how it does work in regional WA".

"The cyclone hit us at category 2," Ms Foley said.

"We came out of it with a little amount of damage - nothing in comparison to Northampton or Kalbarri but still relevant to the people affected.

"Roofs, farm sheds, fences and massive trees it has taken out.

"The Shire clean up continues - that will still take a few weeks.

"It's very scary - we don't want to go through that again."

Ms Foley said having the Crisp Wireless network installed was a huge benefit to the town during that time, especially as a functioning emergency management post it was "invaluable".

She joined the network in 2018 - as one of the first customers - and said the network worked well and could be designed to suit a variety of circumstances, depending on what the region needed.

Whether that was for a cluster of farmers or for a whole town, the network was flexible, price competitive and reliable.

"One of the reasons for going to Crisp was that it would continue to work in a natural disaster," Ms Foley said.

"All the main systems have solar and back-up generators.

"We have a pop-up system in town and the main system is just out of town."

Ms Foley said there was a "huge amount of micro businesses in our Shire which needed high speed quality and reliable internet".

She said from a business perspective the network was "a real positive".

"We were still able to communicate between home and work without interruptions.

"We were able to run the normal office processes while residents came into use the service, to contact family or anything that they needed to do."

The Crisp Wireless network was awarded $500,000 in July 2020 for the Merredin, Bruce Rock and Narembeen Telecommunications Project by the State government through the Digital Farm Grants program.

Last month it was also awarded $3.7m as part of the Regional Connectivity Program to expand further into the Wheatbelt by the Federal government.

Ms Gooch said having the support of government and local Shires to provide the service was a win-win for regional WA.

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