Wednesday, 11 April 2012

NBN Co not fast enough, but Coalition shouldn't talk

Personal experience of NBN'nt


I delivered a lecture yesterday morning and after speaking for nearly two hours non-stop, I had lost my voice. By mid-afternoon I had cancelled my evening lecture and the dreaded Canberra flu had struck its first blow. 

Today I was forced to go to the doctor, and antibiotics were on the menu. Thankfully, Palmerston via Gungahlin has its own medical centre with great doctors and a chemist run by a very knowledgeable pharmacist.

But before I travelled the 600m to the medical centre, I thought I would save myself the slightly longer trip to the Medicare/Centrelink shop-front in Gungahlin and register for Medicare's online service. I remembered going to the doctor last year and hadn't registered so my Medicare claim could be lodged immediately by the medical centre.

Here the drama began. To get a Medicare account, I had to login to my australia.gov.au account. My password didn't seem to work so I requested a new one through the "lost password" function. Moments later I had a new password. When I tried to login to Medicare, my password was wrong.

So I end up adding a Centrelink account (no idea why), but still it wouldn't work. Clicking on the Medicare "lost password" link just gave me a 404 Error. Ten minutes later, and I found a different "lost password" link for Medicare. And it worked... well, almost. I was subsequently advised that my new password was in the... wait for it... POST!

I decided to call Medicare and after a five-minute wait (in the 1990s the wait could be hours!) the friendly Department of Human Services (the name always reminds me of the film Metropolis) officer had issued me a temporary password, and I was registered. Yay!

But when I arrived at the Palmerston Medical Centre, the first thing I noticed was a sign which read (words to the effect of):
Due to an unreliable Internet connection we are no longer able to provide electronic lodgement of Medicare claims. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
I could have cried: Palmerston via Gungahlin. I empathised with my neighbours because 600m down the street it was certainly no better.


Don't forget who brought us here


While the Coalition is having lots of fun with NBN Co's slow roll-out and poor take-up, it is important to remember who was the party in power that got us here in the first place. If the Coalition is in charge after the next election, I doubt Palmerston via Gungahlin will be any better off.

The problem with communications technologies in Australia is and has always been that it is caught up in politics. The Coalition may have a decentralised and technologically-neutral approach to improving broadband, but this policy is just a different model of the same government-controlled monolith.

Until consumers can simply purchase services from businesses that simply provide the service, the politics of communications policy in this country will never end. Today provided me with first-hand experience of just how political even simple services like lodging an online Medicare claim can be. 

In a country that prides itself on being disinterested in politics, we sure do lead an overly-political lifestyle. While the communications industry remains a big policy lever, I can't see the situation changing regardless of the ruling party.



Creative Commons License Except where indicated otherwise, Le Flâneur Politique by Michael de Percy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License. Based on a work at politicalscience.com.au. Background image ©Depositphotos.com/ @redshinestudio