Something to say and stories to tell … (if only we had the NBN to say it!)

I’ve been told that this blog really should be used to focus on issues that I have something to say about or to tell a story. For me, neither of these things should be too challenging (!). There is always plenty to say and I’m told I’ve always got a good story.

It is pertinent then, when we are considering “using our voice” to think about the very important theme that we have this week for the CWA of NSW’s Awareness Week around “Connectivity”. You won’t be surprised to know that I have both something to say and stories to tell on this very important issue.

I was pressed this week into really thinking about the human impact that a lack of connectivity in regional, rural and remote communities has. At first I found it hard, as I defaulted to the usual stoic demeanour of many like me that are simply used to “getting on with it” whilst we exist with third-world internet services.  Although, after sitting in my city CWA office and talking about the issues more with media and others throughout the week … it didn’t take me long to fire up.

Just how long are rural areas expected to wait for decent coverage? Really? I’m serious. We were promised the world with the NBN and most of us can’t help think we have been sold a pup. How long must we continue to hold our begging bowls out to government as we ask “please sir, can I have some more”…. more GB that is! The disparity between internet services in the bush and in the city is becoming more and more clear; and it’s not good enough. Readers, how would you react if, like a close community member of mine, you were locked into a $69/month contract for 2 years for a paltry 1 GB whilst on the interim satellite? It’s disgusting and the CWA have had enough.

data-drought2-a

Connectivity in the bush is so important. I would argue more important than the metro areas where increased investment, for the everyday person, means being able to stream a few more movies. A significant investment in telecommunications infrastructure in the bush means far more than simply streaming Netflix and getting sorted with your online gaming. It means jobs, regional development, better education, better healthcare and increased community resilience. The Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia group has been doing great things to highlight this issue. They need to be listened to and their recommendations need to be taken on-board.

I can’t help but be frustrated when I see MP’s standing up in parliament asking for better internet and Wi-Fi coverage on the Central Coast train system, when we have whole towns and whole communities that are missing out completely.

I hope those Central Coast train commuters get their better services, I really do. I don’t envy the long commute that they have to do. Many people in our district have to travel thousands of kilometres just to see a medical specialist. Fine you might say … “that is the cost of living out there”. To a degree this might be true, but often these same people are offered follow up appointments via Skype and online … which they cannot utilise as they simply don’t have the internet to do it. I wonder how the Central Coast commuters might feel about that when they can stream the latest “House of Cards” series to their iPad on their way home.

Apart from the human cost, there is a very real financial cost that occurs every day that we go by without adequate service. The medical appointments I speak about above, can be subsidised by IPTAS, who often have to subsidise many visits instead of one because of the inability for many regions to have their follow up appointments online.

We are constantly hearing from government about how we need to “upskill” and “increase capacity” of those situated in the west. It sounds like a dumb question but can I ask how we actually do that without the internet?

I am sick of hearing the rhetoric about why we only “need” a certain speed to be built. How patronising. Again, these comments marginalise and disenfranchise people that live in the rural areas of the state. Build it and they will come is what I say. People can start to think about doing things that they have never done before.

Against this backdrop, I also see struggles with representation. It is hard to know what comes first, the lack of representation due to poor connectivity … or the ongoing poor connectivity due to lack of rural and remote representation. By not addressing this issue seriously we continue to disenfranchise the communities that need to be empowered the most.

This week, I urge all of you to join with us in making this issue one that is heard about by your local representatives and decisions makers. Get along to a local CWA event, write to your local member, share this blog and share the stories that you will hear the CWA branches from all over the state telling.

CWA of NSW started in 1922 with aims that are still as relevant today and we have become a force to be reckoned with.  Some people speak of CWA with reverence and in a ‘hushed tone’ others refer to us as the Tea and Scone Brigade or Cranky Women’s Association … to me it does not matter as what matters most of all is that the CWA of NSW is still being mentioned and in the news thanks to your efforts.

CWA Awareness Week logo

9 thoughts on “Something to say and stories to tell … (if only we had the NBN to say it!)

  1. I cant agree more. As a software developer who has chosen to tree change to a rural community, I am witnessing the digital divide. People in the city can take advantage of web-based services that country folk have no access to. It’s s completely changed the way people do business – through collaboration, web conferencing, mobile access to data, work from home, etc.. This is the new economy that Scott Morrison talks about. Rural and Regional Australia cant fully participate in this until we get the NBN. Country folk are becoming second class citizens in this society, and that means second class education and health services, increased costs for services such as banking. We need to fight hard to get parity.

  2. Try paying Super to your employees on flaky Telstra 3G, most super companies do not even offer any other way to do contributions but online. Their web systems are heavy and not suited for poor connectivity we have here. Try sending 1mb attachment via gmail and see how many times it fails until you give up and set your alarm clock for 3am to send it. Try direct deposit via CommBank. Try to Skype call your closest family who live oversees so they can see their grandkids at least once a week. It’s not all about data drought! We will get data hungry for sure, but to begin with, we just want Reliable connection. Fast enough to work. We don’t even dream about streaming, it’s not a priority for us at this stage.

  3. In regard to your comment: “Readers, how would you react if, like a close community member of mine, you were locked into a $69/month contract for 2 years for a paltry 1 GB whilst on the interim satellite?”
    2 years ago I was doing some independent technical support in western NSW. The two year 1GB contracts being offered at that time had nothing to do with the NBN, they were being marketed by Telstra to anyone who was not aware enough to realise what a bad deal it was.
    By the way, those contracts are still available. Check out:
    https://www.telstra.com.au/coverage-networks/satellite-broadband
    But only go there if you want a good laugh, or a good cry! $599 a month for 20GB is one of the plans.
    I talked to Telstra at the time, and they said that satellite internet wasn’t of much interest to them, and that the plans were just there so that they had them available. If people were willing to pay, they would let them. At that time Telstra had moved over to another satellite (there old one was very out-of-date), so everyone who was already using Telstra had to have new equipment installed. But in the process they had to sign up for 2 years. People went with it because they trusted Telstra.
    Meanwhile, the interim NBN plans, though not great, were much better value e.g. Activ8 was doing 30GB off peak/ 30GB on peak for about $69 a month. At the time the NBN was using bandwidth purchased off private companies on an older satellite. The service wasn’t great, but, as it was named, it was an interim service – waiting for the launching of the Sky Muster satellites. One went up October last year, the second goes up next month (October).
    So things should be on the up, and time will tell if regional areas have been dudded by the NBN. But at the moment things don’t look too bad…
    I just wanted to fill in some background to you comments.

    • Thank you Ian. Yes a neighbour of mine is one of the unfortunate that has the 1 GB. To make matters worse she is totally isolated and driving to a town near her is not an option. In my research I discovered that she was on the so called Interim Satellite and I feel Telstra could put such people on NBN first and forego the $4,000 for breaking contract. In the early days I was an advocate for Telstra but little-by-little I can see they are forgetting about us, showing disregard and holding us to ransom as they are the only service provider – so Telstra it is time to move over and allow others to give us a go, then maybe we will be afforded a little more respect.

      • Telstra support team is absolutely out of touch, at one stage they told me that I can leave if I am not happy with the service. If I only had an alternative, I could… The mobile service in my area went downhill since the end of last year. We used to be able to use 3g broadband quite successfully (for bush standards I mean) with the expensive equipment we installed (antenna and booster). Now it got so bad that we cannot even make a successful mobile phone call 80% of times, not to mention slow and fragile broadband. They keep telling us that we live in a poor coverage area and they can’t do anything about it, we have to live with it. How come it was ok and now is worse? They won’t admit it is their network congestion and technical problems. So many more people use mobile internet and install smart antennas that their network cannot cope. Easy prove is to use it at night, it works much better! It is substandard service but we pay like for a premium service. Bush people should regroup and organise a class action against this network, as city folks once did for Vodafone.

  4. As someone who lives in Rural Queensland and exists on satellite I applaud your comments. Most of my work requires me to be “online” and “available to my readers” something I cannot do on satellite. My daughter, who is unemployed and cannot apply for jobs at home is also affected. She cannot access any assistance so must live with us, cannot study either. Simply because the data isn’t available. Then there’s the financial impost of accessing data at approx 2.5 times the cost of our daughter – however we can only access 35Gb per month and its not enough for the adults in our house, yet its limited due to the cost!

    There is so little advocacy for us. No one in the government understands its not about NetFlix. It’s the government services that can only be accessed via data hungry websites. Its the graphical banking sites.

    We’re being told more and more businesses are offering their services online yet without adequate accessibility we cannot use them. That leaves us not just disenfranchised but puts us behind in the race before it even begins.

    Yes, I too have heard the “if you choose to live rural or remote you choose to live without services,” yet I wonder how they would cope if we ran the line – “you choose to live in the city, so you choose to live without food grown in rural and remote areas, or the coal mined in those areas or…” Then we’d hear the screams from on high.

    It’s time for the city to understand that its a two way street. We provide what they cannot and they should provide what we cannot.

    It’s time for change. It’s time for the Australian community to stand up and say enough.

    • Thank you Imogene for your comments. The Country Women’s Association of NSW widely know for its advocacy and lobbying will continue to lend their voice for those who live in Regional, Rural and Remote areas of Australia.

  5. I ‘m so frustrated too. As a CWA cultural officer for Namoi Group ,I cannot contact all members and stop them travelling to our group function in Wee Waa because it is flooding and roads will be cut. I can’t get the message out because of poor connectivity. We need good connectivity for safety of all! It has taken me 1/2 hour to even post this. Server not responding in wet weather?

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