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Telstra Broadband - The Facts Revealed

According to recent surveys, more Australians use Telstra BigPond than any other Internet provider. Providing a large range of dialup, cable, ADSL and satellite plans to choose from - it's no wonder that they enjoy this large market share. But unfortunately for their consumers, things have taken a turn for the worse. Read on as Jon "Albinus" Albiez tells us all the facts we need to know!
@TweakTown
Jon Albiez
Published Fri, Jan 25 2002 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Telstra Broadband - The Facts Revealed -

IntroductionAccording to recent surveys, more Australians use Telstra BigPond than any other Internet provider. Providing a large range of dialup, cable, ADSL and satellite plans to choose from - it's no wonder that they enjoy this large market share. But unfortunately for their consumers, things have taken a turn for the worse.Broadband in Australia is not very widespread, and has been slow to rollout. The vast landscape is partly to blame, as it is not profitable for providers to rollout large amounts of infrastructure. For instance, cable Internet is only available in selected areas of Australia's four largest cities. There are smaller providers in some regional areas, but these are the exception rather than the norm. Telstra has been in the process of equipping exchanges around the country with DSLAM equipment for ADSL - but this rollout has been painfully slow.For those overseas readers, Telstra is the majority government owned telecommunications provider in Australia that owns the majority of exchanges. After the conservative government came to power in 1996, they set in place plans to privatize our national carrier. Currently, 49% is in public hands. Despite a series of record profits, the share price of Telstra has been less than inspiring, and investors are angry. They want returns on their investment - what could Telstra do?The obvious response is to increase prices - and Telstra have done just that. On landline phones, mobile phones, Internet and wholesale services - there have been price increases. Despite some unrest in the community, these were largely accepted as "part of the reform process". Little did we know that this would only be the tip of the iceberg.

Telstra Broadband - The Facts Revealed -

Telstra CableTelstra 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. :-)

Telstra Broadband - The Facts Revealed -

Reliability of the Telstra cable networkMany users would be happy to accept a 3GB cap, but the most optimistic way to describe the Telstra cable network is problematic. It has only been in the past few months that rolling cable outages across four states have stopped. Many of my friends in college have Telstra cable, and the performance and reliability has always been woeful. Despite some improvement lately, the service is still down at regular intervals. When compared to Optus@Home reliability, Telstra cable doesn't hold a candle to it.

Telstra Broadband - The Facts Revealed -

Telstra ADSLIf you really want to raise the ire of an Australian broadband user, the magic letters "A-D-S-L" will do just fine. Originally designed to provide widespread broadband to even small country towns, ADSL has become somewhat of an embarrassment for Telstra. The service became widespread during the second half of 2000, with major cities being serviced first. Because many landlords will not permit cable connections to unit blocks, ADSL is the only form of broadband that many people in Australia can get.The rollout of ADSL was slow and always behind schedule. Applications for an ADSL service were often greeted by pushy sales staff (believe me - I enquired about it). One major difference is that the exchanges were allowed to be used by other ISPs to offer ADSL. But this was a contentious issue, Telstra were charging their wholesale customers more than their retail ones! For instance, early in 2001 Telstra was offering 512Kbps/128Kbps ADSL, with no download limit for less than it cost a wholesale partner to buy 1GB of data!It took a complaint to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and several complaints to the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) before more realistic wholesale pricing was achieved. But by this time, the 3GB cap was in place for the majority of Telstra's retail users. The introduction of the 3GB cap was at the same time as it appeared on the cable network, so for the purposes of this article many changes appeared at the same time for both ADSL and cable.When the 3GB cap started making itself known to Telstra's broadband customers, ADSL was just as bad as cable. The same fury erupted, for the same reasons. When the new pricing structure was announced, the howls of discontent increased, with good reason. Here are Telstra's ADSL prices, before and after the announcement:
"Preselection" is when you choose Telstra for your local and long-distance calls. This nets you a saving on your ADSL connection, but at the cost of dearer local and long-distance calls.The only winners here are those who choose the 300MB Residential plan. Not only does the monthly charge go down, but an extra 50MB of downloads is thrown in. But users on all other plans are either worse off or not affected. Unlike the cable network, there are still speed caps in place. In many American places, when the provider sells 512Kbps/128Kbps ADSL, that is the minimum guaranteed data rate. In Australia, this is the "maximum possible" data rate.

Telstra Broadband - The Facts Revealed -

Reliability of the Telstra ADSL networkIn a word - disgusting. Telstra ADSL users have had to put up with long periods of downtime (often up to a week with no access), software glitches, timeouts, poor speed and heavy packet loss. Compared to the ADSL network, Telstra's cable network is utopia. And until recently, other ADSL providers weren't cost effective because of the uncompetitive wholesale pricing structure Telstra offered.But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. Here's a comparison of some pricing plans from other companies, when compared to Telstra ADSL:
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of ADSL providers in Australia, if there are any other ones that are good value please let me know.

Telstra Broadband - The Facts Revealed -

An interesting development...A recent ZDNet Australia poll was conducted, with the question "Does Telstra's BigPond Internet service provide value for money?" At one stage 25 people said "no" and one person said "yes". After just half an hour, 287 people had answered "yes". This was very strange, since Telstra is viewed as poor value for money almost universally.ZDNet had a trick up their sleeves. Their logs showed a "bot" was set to answer "yes" once a second. The IP address was 203.18.114.238, which belongs to Telstra's Internet Managed Services section. When confronted with this, Telstra's official response was to admit responsibility, adding "It's not a Telstra endorsed initiative".Sure, like people will believe that. Just to back this up, ZDNet replaced the poll the next day with one asking "Should Telstra compensate its customers for regular service interruptions?" Once again, this "bot" swung into action again, racking up a huge vote in Telstra's favour. Personally, for a majority government owned organisation, I find this appalling. Governments and their associated bodies should be publicly accountable in my opinion, and this just further erodes public confidence in Telstra.ConclusionI hope this article has revealed the dark side of Australian broadband. It was intended to present the facts to all, without the marketing mumbo-jumbo. Hopefully when consumers are better educated about their broadband options, they can choose wisely.Providers mentioned in this articleTelstra BigPond Internet Services, http://www.bigpond.comOptus@Home, http://www.optushome.com.auNetspace Online Systems, http://www.netspace.net.auXiS, http://www.xis.com.auAlwaysONLINE, http://www.alwaysonline.net.auOnline Resources which assisted in my researchWhirlpool, http://www.whirlpool.net.auZDNet Australia, http://www.zdnet.com.auThe Register, http://www.theregister.co.uk

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