Australians are amongst the world’s largest users of the
Internet. These days, if you have a computer, the chances are you have an
Internet connection. And chances are also that it is dial-up, sharing the phone
line with your existing voice phone service.
With the price of broadband ever falling, huge numbers of
people have taken the plunge and signed up for one of the countless offerings
available from an almost equally countless number of suppliers.
If you have ADSL broadband, well done. As we have found, it’s
not always as easy as the suppliers make it out to be.
If you could get over the hurdle of ADSL availability (eg,
signing up for anything on the Telstra network meant living within just a couple
of kilometres of the telephone exchange) you then had to wait for Telstra to let
you know that first of all your line was capable of handling ADSL (and
apparently there are many that aren’t, mainly due to cost-cutting installations
in earlier, less-digitally-enlightened times). Then, some time (possibly weeks)
later, you were informed that you had been connected to ADSL and you could plug
in your broadband modem, sign up with an ISP and away you’d go. Hopefully.
Many consumers have been caught out with "bargain" broadband
connections, finding that the usage limits (and in some cases both upload and
downloads count) are unrealistically low. While 300 or 400MB sounds a lot for a
dial-up user, it doesn’t take long to gobble that up – and then some.
Most people find that when they connect the always-on
broadband, usage increases dramatically (why look up a phone book when you can
find the info on the net?) and the usage limits are very quickly exceeded. And
that’s when some of the broadband ISPs really start earning bulk income: many
ISPs charge downright exorbitant rates once you exceed your monthly limit.
But that part of broadband is really another story (solutions
for which we hope to look at in more detail in a future issue).
Cable broadband has of course been an alternative – if (a) you
could get it (and there are still vast areas which have not been "cabled") and
(b) if you could afford it. Cable broadband has, at least until recently, been
significantly more expensive than ADSL.
An aside: a mate of mine is an Optus cable broadband customer
because ADSL isn’t available at his place. He pays about seventy dollars a month
for the privilege. Not long ago, Optus magnanimously told him they were upping
his limit from the current plan’s three gigabytes a month to ten. He very seldom
uses any more than one gigabyte. Would they lower the monthly rate and keep him
at three? Last time I saw him he was still whistling Dixie.
OK, so what if you could bypass the whole ADSL/cable rigmarole
and have a broadband connection literally within minutes? One that is at least
competitive with Telstra/Optus offerings? And perhaps more importantly, one that
doesn’t charge you extra for your excess usage?