A Pilbara councillor is calling on mining companies to make temporary mobile towers permanent as a way to fix the poor mobile phone coverage in the region. At the June ordinary council meeting, Shire of East Pilbara deputy president Wendy McWhirter Brooks requested the shire create a position paper on regional telecommunications infrastructure. Most of the Shire of East Pilbara is without mobile coverage and in areas where it is available, it is provided by a single supplier. Cr McWhirter Brooks said she wanted to look at whether temporary mobile towers that were erected for mining camps could be made permanent fixtures to provide ongoing coverage after a camp is gone. She said that the issue first came to her attention after a telecommunications tower on Marble Bar Road was scheduled to be decommissioned when the mining camp closed. As travellers along the road used that service, Cr McWhirter Brooks said she wanted to explore whether those types of towers could be made permanent. “Why couldn’t that tower stay in place and be installed as a permanent fixture by the mining company?” she asked. “Given the public had the advantage of that small service and then when the decommissioning happened, the company planned to take it away. “For the good of the community, it’s good to have that tower. It’s great that the company have chosen to leave it in situ. It has a small footprint but has huge benefit for travellers and nearby residents and landholders” Cr McWhirter Brooks also said that these towers should be made to host multiple network providers rather than one, as is currently the case. She said a lack of network coverage was bad for tourism and economic development in the Pilbara. “People come into town to do some shopping and they want to use their phone to access their card on their phone account so that they can pay for things,” she said. “They have to go ask for the Wi-Fi password so that they can get into their account because the mobile carrier isn’t working and people find that embarrassing to do.” The Shire of East Pilbara is the largest local government area in Australia at 372,571sqkm. Cr McWhirter Brooks said East Pilbara residents living in remote communities were more severely affected by the issue and that when tourists come into town, they were often shocked at the lack of coverage available. She said that the issue so far had not been adequately addressed. “When mining projects come into this region and they’re doing some work, they pop in a camp for a period of time and they put up a temporary tower,” she said. “We’d love it if they could put up a permanently fixed tower with a power source and come up with an arrangement with the service provider.” Emergency services have also highlighted to Cr McWhirter Brooks the impact removing temporary towers has had on their ability to communicate across the region.