No net­work

Farm­ers join push for bet­ter ru­ral NBN

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - NEWS - By KACEE JOHN­STON

Conargo’s Army­tage fam­ily has joined a push to de­mand more re­li­able National Broad­band Net­work con­nec­tions for ru­ral and re­mote Aus­tralia.

It comes as the fam­ily’s new con­nec­tion grad­u­ally be­comes less re­li­able as time goes on.

The Army­tages were among the first in Aus­tralia to be con­nected to the NBN’s Sky Muster ser­vice ear­lier this year. They now say they re­gret the de­ci­sion. Carla Army­tage said they were con­nected in March and did ex­pe­ri­ence faster speeds . . . for the first three months only.

It is now slower than their for­mer Tel­stra Next G in­ter­net ser­vice, and Mrs Army­tage said it is the fam­ily’s farm­ing busi­ness and their em­ploy­ees who are pay­ing the price of the un­re­li­able con­nec­tion.

They use the on­line farm man­age­ment pro­gram ‘AgData’ for ac­count­ing and pay­roll pur­poses, and Mrs Army­tage says the poor in­ter­net ser­vice means they have been late in pay­ing some sup­pli­ers and em­ploy­ees.

‘‘It was bril­liant for the first few months, but now I’m deal­ing with con­stant drop outs,’’ Mrs Army­tage said.

‘‘I’ve got a pay­roll to do and I need re­li­able in­ter­net. Some­times I can wait for up to two hours just to lo­gin.

‘‘I have kids and a life. I set aside a day to do all the busi­ness work and then it doesn’t even work.

‘‘It’s just crazy that if I lived 20km closer to the town (De­niliquin), I would have un­lim­ited and more re­li­able data.’’

Mrs Army­tage says she also fears her chil­dren’s fu­ture ed­u­ca­tion needs will be im­pacted by the poor ser­vice.

The fam­ily was en­cour­aged to switch to the NBN be­cause they thought they would re­ceive ‘‘the more re­li­able, faster con­nec­tion the ser­vice provider pro­moted’’.

An­other at­trac­tive point was the cheaper price, but Mrs Army­tage said those sav­ings have been lost due to the un­re­li­a­bil­ity.

In the last few months, she has had to re­sort to her pre­vi­ous in­ter­net provider as well, which she said has had a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial im­pact.

Mrs Army­tage has now joined a com­mu­nity cam­paign to get an­swers, and a more re­li­able in­ter­net ser­vice for all ru­ral and re­mote com­mu­ni­ties — the Bet­ter In­ter­net for Ru­ral, Re­gional and Re­mote Aus­tralia (BIRRR) cam­paign.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, her sis­ter Kristy Spar­row is a vol­un­teer for the group the af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a sim­i­lar ‘‘data drought’’ in Al­pha, Queens­land.

She said the main aims of the group are to con­nect peo­ple to the right providers and of­fer ad­vice on the best plans and providers for in­di­vid­u­als.

They also in­tend to ‘‘close the dig­i­tal di­vide be­tween re­gional and town­ship in­ter­net ac­cess’’.

‘‘Most peo­ple who talk to us are un­happy with Sky Muster; they all seem to be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar prob­lems,’’ Mrs Spar­row said.

‘‘There’s a need for ad­vice. It’s a jungle out there when it comes to choos­ing a provider.

‘‘It comes down to the lack of data and un­re­li­a­bil­ity.

‘‘The speed is there, which is what they’ll sell you on, but that ben­e­fit can’t be ac­cessed with the un­re­li­able con­nec­tion.

‘‘With the ser­vice be­com­ing pro­gres­sively more un­re­li­able and users be­com­ing more frus­trated each day, it’s clear that some­thing needs to be done.’’

Mrs Spar­row said one of the ma­jor projects be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the BIRRR is to es­tab­lish lo­cal in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­sory ser­vices in ru­ral and re­mote com­mu­ni­ties.

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