The internet for me is very much a love-hate relationship. Love: Netflix, YouTube, cat memes. Hate: when I have to reset the modem 8 times because the normal extension and my personal extension are not working as the main modem has decided to have a conniption. In fact, my dad had to replace our router 3 BLOODY TIMES because I physically could not do any uni work – our connection changed more frequently than Kim Kardashian’s hair.
According to Donovan (2015), Australia is currently ranked 44th in the world for internet speed. If I lived in South Korea, the Netherlands, or Latvia – my internet life would apparently be much more efficient.
So, why is Australian internet so dismal? Same ol’ story my friends, we are merely pawns in the game of politics. If you cast your memory back to Kevin ’07, he was pretty keen on the idea of the internet not being so shite. Tonz, in true Abbott style, did not think it was such a great idea. It would appear his distain for anything modern is still prevailing (*cough* marriage equality, *cough* #globalwarmingisntreal). Donovan (2015) explains that the government’s decision to use a mixed copper and fibre network is the reason for our internet issues. Australia’s competitors are using all fibre based networks – which Labor did attempt to start rolling out, but the opposition had other ideas. In 2011, Abbott linked Queensland and Victoria floods with the expenditure of the NBN rollout:
“The National Broadband Network is a luxury Australia cannot now afford. The one thing you don’t do is redo your bathroom when your roof has just blown off.” (Gregg 2013. p. 148).
So naturally, when liberal were back in power, the NBN was not a priority at all. This is also the reason our video streaming quality is much lower on services such as Netflix, especially in my area (Sutherland shire, Sydney) where the NBN has still not been implemented.
So, I did contemplate giving up, throwing in the towel, going officially offline after about 6 months of this internet shenanigans. I had to have a very serious conversation with myself about whether persevering for the cat memes was reason enough. Verdict? Yes. ALL THE CAT MEMES.
This frustration, however, does come from a place of technological privilege. I have been active on the internet pretty much forever. I am not quite iPad generation, but my childhood memories include Myscene and Barbie websites, Habbo Hotel, and of course Neopets. I was also one of those teens Boyd (2014) speaks of in ‘It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens’, who used MySpace in the mid 2000s, and then moved on to tumblr, facebook, instagram and twitter. I am a person who wants fast internet for recreational use, and who requires it for university use.
My nana Val, however, appears to be a lot more patient – grateful for the opportunities the internet has to offer. You may remember her from such blog posts as ‘Television Rules the Nation.’ As far as the stereotypical old person goes, my nan is pretty ‘down with the kids’. She texts, she internets, she even selfies.
When I went back to my Nan’s for interviewing round 2, we got off to a hilarious and very cute start. I asked Nana if she used wireless or dial up, and she told me “I think it’s called Optus.” I then clarified – can you connect anywhere in your house or only when you’re plugged in to the thingymabob?’. That made more sense – she has wireless. When Nana first got ‘on the line’, she did have dial up – I was informed that it was too slow for a hip nan such as mine.
My Nana lives alone, thus she only has one computer, one modem and one data plan. And sadly, like me, she is not connected to the NBN. She is not so easily jaded however, and thinks the internet is positively fab. According to the ABS, from 2012-13 those aged 65+, the internet was mainly used for:
My Nan stills likes to use real banks, but government services and voice/video calls are definitely her internet priority. As I explained in my television blog entry, my Nana is English and a lot of her family and friends still live thousands of miles away. Solution? Skype. That’s right ladies and gents, my nana SKYPES (Hi Nanny! You’re uber modern!). It did take a while to set up – microphones didn’t work and cameras would not connect; but there was perseverance, and there was success. And now there is a Skype session to her sister once a week:
“It’s great because I get to see Norma while I talk to her, and even though we are so far away from each other, it feels like we’re having a proper conversation.” (Valerie, 2015).
Nan also uses the internet to email funny pictures to her friends, check movies and session times, read my blog as well as my sister’s blog (shameless sibling plug), and even she falls into the trap of Dr. Google. There may be 60 years between us, but the internet still serves the same function – to keep us connected, entertained, and convinced we’ve got Yellow Fever.
So we are still ranked 44th in the world, and my uni work still takes longer than if I were Latvian (especially if I am on Campus), but through the eyes of my Nan, the internet is a key ingredient in making her feel closer to her family and keeping up to date. But For Gods Sake, will the NBN perlease visit the shire.
Boyd, D 2014, ‘It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens’, Yale University Press, UK
Donovan, S 2015, ‘Internet speeds: Australia ranks 44th, study cites direction of NBN as part of problem’, ABC, January 13, viewed 24 August, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-12/australian-internet-speeds-rank-44th-in-the-world/6012570>
Gregg, M 2013, ‘History in the making: The NBN roll-out in Willunga, South Australia’, Media International Australia, Incorporation Culture & Policy, no. 143, pp. 146-158