Trial by fire

So this week is all about the Internet. As I am sure you are aware, the NBN has been trying to roll out across Australia for a long time. Due to political and industrial busybodies, uptake of the idealistic open-access data network has been severely inhibited. Kate Bowles has likened the roll out to that of television in Australia 50 years ago with a few differences.

I decided to follow up with my friends, Jon, Mary, David and Grace to see how they connect to the Internet. There are a number of observations that interest me.

Grace (85) lives in an area the NBN has no immediate plans for. Not only that, she is signed up with Telstra Bigpond to an internet account with 500 GB of data each month. This is more than double that of my household (200 GB) and I don’t even use all of that, which I explained to her in order to help her understand how egregious her own plan is. What’s worse is that I figured this out a few weeks ago and she still hasn’t changed her plan. Some Telstra employee completely took advantage of a woman who only uses the Internet for email.

David (66) also lives in an area the NBN has not started work in. The M7 separates his suburb from Blacktown and a big expanse of NBN work that is in progress. He also observed that he has more stable internet connection with cable than ADSL2+ but, most interestingly, the 4G range in his area is much more consistent than other parts of Sydney. In fact his preference for Internet access at the moment is using 4G wireless data on his smart phone. (I still have to check he knows how to make his phone into a wifi hotspot.)

Jon (70s) lives in Orange where the majority of the area has NBN available or build preparation in process. However he does not have NBN. He’s in the middle of trying to get it for his farm in Mudgee where there is no work in progress. Our phone conversation was cut off before I could find out what his current Internet provider was.

Finally, Mary, whose Internet access I share, is frequently dropping out due to an ongoing dispute with Telstra Bigpond. I thought it was interesting when Kate observed that technology is an area where children begin to educate their parents and grandparents. Even though Mary asks me how to work things or change settings my opinion on our Internet Service Provider when we moved was ignored. Money still plays a big part in decision-making. Mary doesn’t have any NBN work in her area either.

So far none of these individuals have access to the NBN but it doesn’t seem like most want it either.

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5 comments

  1. I’m really thinking about Grace, and wondering about what kinds of consumer protections would need to be in place for this not to happen. Can you do some research into this?

    1. I think tech salesmen consider senior citizens to be the perfect mark. Grace has also walked into a Telstra store to buy a smart phone so she would have a wireless hotspot and they sold her a wireless modem instead. It was completely not the thing she was after and Mary went through terrible trouble trying to get the situation rectified for Grace. I will look into it but I wouldn’t know where to start.

      1. This is a perfect project for BCM240: consumer exploitation of older Australian tech users. Start by looking for a telecommunications ombudsman. Who regulates Telstra? If Mary and Grace are happy to have their story further explored, then you could come out with a good practice guideline for selling to older users, if one doesn’t exist. This seems important.

  2. I’m not sure if you saw the big report out from NBN on Australian Jobs of the Future this week, but it completely overlooks the retiree age group, and I find myself wondering how this meshes with their difficulties in getting a service out to rural locations. How hard will NBN work to connect seniors to fast broadband? Let’s not forget that was a huge part of the original marketing: seniors managing health over distance. Where did that go?

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