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Rural internet as useful as a blunt chainsaw

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As a long time rural internet user, I was shocked when going online in Hong Kong last December. 

No time was wasted watching an arrow endlessly circling, nor were there long pauses where one is forced to consider taking up smoking or knitting to pass the time while switching between screens. Just click, and the next screen is there faster than one can blink.

The internet is a big part of our lives, and essential to our provision of health care. It enables us to learn from the most current resources, explore treatment options, watch demonstrations of procedures and attend live discussions with experts. It permits our patients to receive specialist care online, and is the backbone for the My Health Record.

Soon, it will lessen the burden of obtaining authority prescription – online authorisation is around the corner after much AMA lobbying to minimise the time currently wasted.

While I never expect those of us outside the big cities to be provided with a service matching speeds provided to inner city residents, we should at least get a half decent service and costs per gigabyte similar to city users – not 20 times more expensive, as recently outlined in The Land.

I have a mate who gets up at 2am to post his online billing to NSW Health. Their system is one from the Dark Ages, designed to save their accounting department time and money with no realisation that with tortoise speed rural internet it is a pain in the derrière for all those using it.

Assumptions are made that we have oodles of time to waste in rural Australia, when the reverse is true.

We want to spend more time on fun and families, not online with clunky unfriendly software battling to overcome a very slow internet system.

Having to get up at 2am to get a speedy connection is just cruelty.

So we have a double whammy – poor internet speeds that waste our time, and higher costs per GB for the lousy service we get.

Currently, consumer protection laws give some protection for fixed line phone users. But there is none for mobile and internet users in rural locations.

The Government has admitted change is needed, and is seeking the Productivity Commission’s direction on reforms. This cannot come too soon.

So, next time you find poor connectivity is annoying the hell out of you don’t waste the moment. Get online to your local Federal Member and express your frustrations.

Just as a blunt chainsaw wastes fuel and time, lousy internet connectivity at high cost lessens our output as rural doctors.