Treating Aussie internet users like a bunch of dodos
Attention Senator Conroy: Forget about filtering the internet. Instead please pour your energy, time and (our) money into providing Australia with an internet – and a phone system for that matter – that works, is accessible and affordable.
Many Australians are likely oblivious to the communications dark ages in which we live. In the USA I can connect my home or office to a variety of internet providers, all offering great, low-priced deals. In Australia I am given a choice of a couple of providers with a few extra resellers offering outrageous prices and slow service.
In the USA almost all internet plans provide unlimited downloads and usage. In Australia I am offered plans limiting the hours I can spend on the internet; if I exceed this I am hit with exorbitant hourly rates or a slower internet.
In the USA I can choose a cell (mobile) phone from a myriad of companies and obtain good reception most of the time. Drop outs are rare. In Australia I have to go into my bedroom and sit in a certain place with my left leg elevated at a particular angle to get any reception and even then my phone regularly drops out.
In the USA I can wander into any Starbucks and most other cafes and get free wi-fi. Furthermore, wall to wall power outlets are provided so I can spend as much time as I need doing my work and sipping my lattes. I can also get free wi-fi at shopping centres, hotels and even some airports. Those larger airports that charge are still not expensive – it costs about $6 for the day. I can even access the internet – albeit again for a nominal charge - on domestic flights!
In Australia I am flat out finding a cafe or coffee shop that even provides wi-fi and the few that do almost always charge. McDonalds have finally started to offer their customers free wi-fi but their brochures state that “power is not provided”. Some McDonalds stores have signs banning customers from connecting to power outlets.
I’m not a “techie” – I still text using complete words - yet I remain in techno-shock after arriving back in Australia a year ago following almost 7 years abroad. While I immediately fell in love with my new iPhone I found that my network dropped out quite often and that I can’t use the phone throughout my own house without the continual “hello…hello….can you hear me now?”
Yet my phone problems were relatively minor compared to my quest for a home internet service. I had assumed that connecting a fast broadband service would be a simple procedure only to be told that there were no lines available at the exchange. This fact alone should alert Senator Conroy and everyone else in Canberra that we have serious problems with our communications infrastructure. That in the year 2010 we cannot connect a phone line to a home in a suburb of one of our major cities is a testimony to years of government apathy.
It got worse. Other internet providers told me that while they could find an exchange line (allocated to another network), our home phone line was “paired” and could not handle a broadband service. They explained that when the phone line was originally being installed, it was shared with another home to save money. The only option was to pay $300 for a new line but they still couldn’t guarantee a line at the exchange until this new line was installed!
So I turned to wireless broadband however upon instillation found that it was so slow I could cook dinner between refreshing pages. I called the provider who told me I was in their “black spot’, though could not explain why this – rather important (to me at least) - point was not revealed when I ordered the service. With my options for internet service all but gone, I was forced to take wireless broadband with another – naturally the most expensive – provider.
Being now the proud owner of the highest price internet plan I could find for the lowest service quality available – plus a mobile phone that only works in the bedroom - I find myself regularly setting up office at my local McDonalds where I consume countless toasted sandwiches and flat whites and wait for the battery life on my computer to expire (remember they don’t include power).
I live in a modern, mid priced suburb, 25 minutes from the city centre of Brisbane and therefore wonder what my communications options would be if I lived in rural Australia, far from exchanges and internet technicians. I may be starting to understand just why those that live outside our cities react with such cynicism each time governments announce big plans to revolutionise our communications industry.
We live in one of the world’s great nations – with one of the western world’s most backward technology. Senator Conroy, Mr Rudd - I don’t want my internet filtered. I want an internet that is affordable, accessible and effective. A phone that I can use anywhere without dropping out would also be nice. Please just bring us into the 21st century and we’ll be happy
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