Telstra cable was the first broadband service to be rolled out by the industry heavyweight. The initial charges were outrageous, and it was only after the introduction of Optus@Home, a rival cable Internet service, that prices fell to a reasonable level. For several months, users enjoyed a choice of cable providers. However, all residential Telstra cable plans were capped at either 256 or 512Kbps download speed. Optus@Home users, on the other hand, were able to download at the maximum speed the cable could provide, which is theoretically 10Mbps.
The ball looked to be in Optus' court until they introduced NetStats. This was a new bandwidth-conserving policy designed to allow fair use of the cable network by removing bandwidth "pigs" that downloaded excessive quantities of material, creating a slow Internet experience for others on the local node. The NetStat limit is set to 10 times the average user's usage, you can download up to this limit - but no more. If you exceed this limit, you are barred permanently from the Optus@Home cable network.
The current average monthly download by Optus@Home users is around 1.9GB - making the maximum limit 19GB/month. Some users (especially Napster users) were downloading terabytes of information per month - so they switched to Telstra cable, despite the slower download speed. So users were in a predicament, torn between unlimited downloads and capped speed, or unlimited speed and capped downloads. This continued for a number of months, until Telstra dropped a bombshell on the industry - introducing a 3GB download limit on users.
Immediately, users all over the country were in an uproar. Because Telstra cable has a greater coverage than Optus@Home, many users couldn't switch carriers. Telstra seemed to take note of this, and after much ranting, raving and the like by users, Telstra agreed to put the 3GB cap "on hold". Users breathed a temporary sigh of relief. But beginning in December 2001, the 3GB cap was policed.
For hundreds of thousands of Telstra broadband customers, this meant carefree downloading came to a screeching halt. If you dared exceed the 3GB limit, you were automatically charged 18.9c/MB. That's over $193 per gigabyte!!! To make matters worse, according to Telstra, a gigabyte is 1,000 megabytes, not 1,024. This is a tactic used by hard disk manufacturers, and Telstra has used it to their advantage here. Some even took to calling it a "Ziggybyte", named after the C.E.O. of Telstra, Ziggy Switkowski.
Just when all the tempers of Telstra broadband users had reduced to a simmer, they have just recently introduced new pricing schemes, to be effective March 2002. Let's have a look at the pricing comparison:
The main winners are those on the 5GB and 10GB Residential plans. Their access fees will drop by $40 and $60 respectively. But the big losers will be the people on the 3GB Residential plan - what most people are on. Their fee will rise by $15.40/month, or over 21%. Sure, the download caps have been removed off all plans, but that just makes it easier to hit your download limit! The lower excess usage charges also won't be accepted by many as a fair compromise.
The minimum wage in Australia is just under $400/week, so spending $339.95 per month for 10GB of downloads is not feasible for many people, especially when taxation runs as high as 49.5% in Australia. For those readers in America, one U.S. dollar is approximately two Australia dollars, so just halve the prices to get an idea of how much it costs. :-)