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.
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.