Did you know that Australia has slower internet than Romania, Latvia and Israel, in fact we don’t even make it into the top 20! The Australian Government plans to change this with the construction of the National Broadband Network (NBN). The NBN claims that it will enable access to fast, reliable and affordable phone and internet services.
Marketing the NBN as a key component to your life, has been the message of the building and operating company NBN CO. Yet the continuing issue is the drag on effect that has occurred due to the change in government. This has meant that the idea and message of the NBN has been frustratingly blurry.
Closing this digital divide we experience in Australia is no easy feat as it would be difficult to get the same fast internet speeds in a remote Aussie town compared to a bustling suburb in Sydney. The NBN supporters acknowledge this and say they plan to use a mixture of technologies to deliver it so they have the best fit for each area. The video below paints the possibilities and how much better life will be for the average Australian household.
Now let’s look at another Australian household, my childhood home and what their thoughts are on the NBN. My childhood home is located in the small rural town Inverell, with a population of 12000 in northern NSW. My childhood home is located 30 kilometres out of Inverell on a small farm where my 4 younger siblings (19, 15, 13, 7) and my mother and step-father live.
As a teenager, I remember always having problems with the internet. It was (is) very slow and we could only ever have 3gb PER MONTH(!!) for the entire household, due to being in a rural area. It was a nightmare to do homework and I never had the luxury to YouTube or go on social media and talk to friends. You could say I was pleased to move to Wollongong and have unlimited access to the internet! My family still suffer from the 3gb quota and are excited what the NBN have in store for them.
To no surprise, it appears the NBN has nothing in store for my family, as I checked the website for an update. Closing the digital divide for this Australian household seems to be something more of a utopian vision they can only dream of. Nevertheless I still asked them over the phone what they thought about the NBN.
What do you expect to do differently when and if the NBN arrives? The 15 year old replies: OMG I just want to go on YouTube endlessly, is that really too much to ask? I would just like to be like everyone else and be able to go on Tumblr all the time and Snap my friends without being yelled out at by Mum for going over the internet quota! It would be easier as well in regards to homework and assignments I guess. Everything is online now and I feel pretty left out.
My mother: I would love to be able to connect all our devices such as the ipad and laptops and have the freedom to use them whenever for however long. I know it is tough for the children to live in these times without fast and unlimited internet access, so I am hoping the NBN will allow us to have affordable and accessible internet soon. I think I will watch more TV shows online that way, download more music and read more articles. I know we would be able to do more business at home, so we wouldn’t have to spend such long hours in town. However in saying that, I do not want my family to become isolated by our devices, I am seeing that already with the girls and their iphones. I would like the home to have the capability the NBN offers but I don’t want us to abuse it and lose communication and family time.
My mother seemed to be talking about the same thing Turkle (2012) was cautioning: that society is forgetting the art of real conversations as we now have the ability to edit, delete and retouch. Turkle maintains that using an application in place of real world, face-to-face interactions is having a detrimental effect on how we prioritise offline communication. In comparison.Turkle (2012) believes we are ‘shortchanging ourselves’.
“Because the moment that people are alone, even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device. Just think of people at a checkout line or at a red light. Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved. And so people try to solve it by connecting.”
I do agree with what my mother and Turkle are saying, we have lost our sense of self, our sense of doing nothing, just breathing, taking it all in. I posed this quote to my 13 year old sister and she disagreed. She thinks that this is how people are now, this is how we live, that the device is our second mind. She added that ‘mum only says this because she is old and she never grew up with it, it is just like how tv would have use to have been!’. Livingstone (2009) agrees with my sister as he stresses that worries about social isolation and addiction that were the same with the arrival of Television.
Looking ahead five years what kind of things do you expect Australian families to be doing online? My 19 year old sister: In short, everything. I would if I could. I think they would be grocery shopping online, clothes shopping, paying bills, working, skyping, organising, programming the washing machine, just everything. I think a lot of small businesses will suffer, but they will probably migrate online too and function out of their garage haha. Who knows, five years doesn’t seem that far away but a lot can and will change between now and then. Even now, I do everything online, i’ll Facebook message [my sisters] in the other room so mum can’t hear us, now who would have thought that.
The number of households with access to the Internet at home continues to increase, reaching 7.3 million households in 2012–13 and representing 83% of all households (ABS, 2014). With the Internet access in Australia rapidly growing. It appears the NBN would be a welcome change to my childhood home, where my family would have the opportunity to join the rest of Australia well (96% who have internet access at home, ABS) on the connectivity front. The NBN has the ability to catapult Australia out of its out-dated technology. We are already globally isolated enough, we don’t want to be isolated by our slow internet in the technological future as well.
Livingstone, S, 2009, ‘Half a century of television in the lives of our children and families’, in The end of television? Its impact so far. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, ed Katz, E and Scannell, P, pp.151-163, accessed 22/08/14, http://ann.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/625/1/151
Turkle, S 2012, ‘Alone Together’, TED talk, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtLVCpZIiNs.