THE digital drought in the bush is hurting businesses and communities and the County Women’s Association has a message for government – it’s about fairness.
“I can understand there are limitations because of where we live,” said CWA president and Rowena resident Tanya Cameron.
“But you can’t tell me that I or anyone else deserve less data and more cost than someone who lives in the city.”
Government needs to reverse the service gap between metropolitan and regional areas, or abandon the pretence of a push to shift Australia’s urban population away from the coast, Mrs Cameron said.
How can we expect people to move to the bush to operate business if the internet isn’t available?
“How can we expect people to move to the bush to operate business if the internet isn’t available?,” she asked.
“There is a role for government to make a strategic plan to decentralise its own services.”
CWA state vice president Annette Turner, lives and runs Polpah Station near White Cliffs, 300 kilometres north of Broken Hill. She also works from her home office as technical director of Turner Warburton Solutions, a mining software company.
Mrs Turner said she is better off than most in her district, but even so tight data limits and patchy internet connection are a day to day struggle.
“We get 25 gigabytes a month for $160 and we are one of the fortunate ones.”
She said when the internet came to her neck of the woods about a decade ago, the commercial offerings “were adequate, but now the demands outweigh availability”.
More and more services requiring increasing amounts of data are going online – chewing up the meagre data allowances - and unforeseen impacts like “grey nomad tourist using the available mobile data” aren’t helping, Mrs Turner said.
Her daughter in law, who lives on a neighbouring property, started to study a degree in agriculture from home – but had ot give it up because the courses resources were streamed videos online.
Mrs Turner is optimistic about the opportunities which the National Broadband Network’s Sky Muster satellite service offers, but said so far little information was available to compare the offerings of service providers that will sell access to the system.
“We are floundering out here to try to find the best plan . There is nothing out there for us to know what is coming.”
CWA chief executive Danica Leys said the organisation is inundated with negative feedback about internet in the bush.
“There are too many areas that just don’t have coverage at all, particularly for data. In areas where they might have some coverage, there is usually an extraordinarily high amount that they have to pay for a pittance of data amount,” she said.
“The issue needs addressing urgently… People can’t conduct business, it affects the education of their children and it also affects important things like access to health services.
“Just fix it. Enough is enough.”
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