Keeping in touch is not so hard these days. Mostly.
Telstra, the old monopoly company has been gradually removing public phones from use now that the mobile (cell) phone blizzard has swept through. If you find one, the most economical phoning is done using a third party phone card: pay 50c to link to the company’s computer, tap in approximately 30 digits and start talking at a cost of about .5c a minute. Yes, that’s 30c an hour, to talk to the USA, at least if you are in one of the biggest 50 cities in Australia. You mean 15 hours talking for $10? Yes, sirree. Once you get beyond those cities you are hit with a surcharge where it’s suddenly 5c a minute, but that’s still the cheaper form of telephone communication. Once you have connected the sound quality is as good as using a standard phone.
Currently out of cities and regional towns mobile phone coverage is patchy. In fact it’s almost non existent for most carriers: Optus, Vodaphone etc. You are restricted to the expensive old dinosaur Telstra.
Did it mentioned Telstra is unresponsive and expensive?
But if there is any coverage it will always be Telstra.
Actually once you are connected and never have to deal with them anymore it’s not so bad.
Connecting to the internet can also be patchy.
In South Australia you can register at public libraries and get a password that allows 8 hours a day free use. Completely free? That’s right. In smaller towns the public library is often sensibly located at the local high school and the opening hours are whenever the school is open.
Elsewhere in remote Australia the public library usually has access. They use satellite connections so the speed can be good. The libraries usually charge and it can be very expensive.
Then there’s the Telecentres: internet nodes set up not to disadvantage regional areas. It can disadvantage casual users who often end up getting charged twice as much. Like anywhere between $5 and $12 an hour. Yikes, forget that. So much for access.
If you have your own laptop/netbook there’s plenty of free wireless in the cities, eg McDonalds, but once you get more remote a better bet is a plugin modem on the 3G network. That’s back at Telstra. You have to use their mobile phone network once again and out there a prepaid card access is, well, expensive.