Internet and phone reception was so bad in parts of central Victoria that two people bedridden with COVID-19 felt "totally cut off" at the height of their illnesses.
It is one story shared with the Bendigo Loddon Primary Care Partnership as the pandemic crisis swept Victoria.
The group's latest report gathers evidence as advocates press governments and industry for better communication networks in rural areas.
It could help rural health services press governments for change using accounts from people forced to battle dodgy connections during lockdown.
They include two people who could not get out of bed for four days after contracting the virus.
"We couldn't access anything," one said.
The couple at least had a landline, but that was of limited use in a society increasingly reliant on mobiles and the internet.
"If you live on a property, people begin to accept it as normal ... We rely so much on digital stuff but (it) stuffs you up," one member of the couple said.
Another person had been forced to disconnect their landline because she was living in temporary accommodation while her new house was being built.
"I have to plan to make phone calls when I'm in a town, or if at home, ride my bike to an open space and hold my phone up in the air. I can't do that at night," she said.
"My sons work during the day. Mum is in a nursing home. It's hard to keep in touch."
Another person now keeps their mobile up on a ladder and has to quickly climb it whenever it rings.
A health care profession said many of their telehealth clients were driving around their back paddocks trying to get reception.
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People had tried to to get their issues resolved. Those efforts often ended in frustration with service providers.
"They suggested I buy an antenna but couldn't guarantee it would work. It costs over $1000, then you have to pay for the electrician to put it in," one person surveyed said.
Another had been told by an internet provider that the more people access a satellite, the slower the internet, and that nothing could be done about it.
"We'd like to have a backup to internet. If it goes down, the mobile service is not good enough for emergencies, and in recent experience it goes down a lot," one resident said.
Report authors found an "overwhelming" picture of despair among those it contacted for comment.
"Many had raised these issues with service providers and some had already contacted media and politicians," the report stated.
"All were becoming increasingly frustrated that, despite making every effort to improve their access, their situation is not improving."
The report will now be used by groups including the Loddon Mallee Region's Health Sector Working Group, which two years ago decided made dealing with the digital divide its first priority.
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