31 August, 2006

Broadband? What Broadband?

Australia’s a funny place. I’ve lived here a bit over ten years now and it never ceases to surprise me. Sometimes the surprises are good – like finding a 2 metre carpet python sunbathing in my garden. Sometimes they are bad – like finding that you can’t get broadband even in the major cities.

I live in Brisbane, Australia’s 3rd largest city. I live in the Brisbane suburb of Karana Downs. Brisbane is a big city. It has almost 2 million people in it and is growing fast. A city this size dwarfs most of the other places I’ve lived. Take Haslingfield, an English village in the East of England. Haslingfield has a population of about 3,000. The nearest ‘city’ is Cambridge, about 12 km away. The population of Cambridge is only about 300,000 and yet, in Haslingfield, I had fibre-optic cable to my door way back in the mid 1990s. The same in Auegstertal, a tiny little place with a few dozen houses, some way out from Zurich in Switzerland – itself with a population of less than half a million. Twelve years ago, I had cable in Auegstertal. Yet here in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, I can’t even get a primitive ADSL broadband service! Not even ADSL!

To be fair, I don’t live in the centre of Brisbane – where they do have broadband – cable even, some of them – I live in an outer suburb. But, when I hear from a friend of mine that he has bought an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in rural France and even there he can get 2Mb/s broadband, my blood boils. The fact that Queensland’s state slogan is ‘Queensland: The Smart State’ is clearly just wishful thinking.

For someone like me, whose livelihood is the Web and whose hobbies are very bandwidth-intensive (ever tried uploading a 5Mb MP3 to your band’s website at 56Kb modem speeds?), not having broadband for my home office is a huge nuisance that is building year by year into a catastrophe. Yet even for my wife, who is not into technology for its own sake like me, this is becoming a problem. She has an iPod and likes to listen to podcasts from the BBC and ABC. She has friends and family in the UK and elsewhere who increasingly often send her video clips, sets of holiday snaps, and animated jokes or cards. Because broadband has been such a normal part of their lives for so long, they don’t realise that files like this will tie up our phone line for hours as we wait for the mail to download.

And if it’s happening to me and my wife, it must be happening to millions of other ordinary Australians. Little by little, week by week, we are being excluded, cut off from the ordinary concourse of the rest of the world. It is very, very frustrating.

And why? Oh, don’t get me started on how stuffed up Australian politics is and how little competition there is in the Australian telecoms industry, or how a few big commercial interests appear to control the government’s whole media agenda. It’s pathetic. This is a country that has only a handful of big cities – one of the most intensely urbanised countries in the whole world – and yet they can’t get broadband out even to people in the state capitals.


Dano said...

The sad part of the "no broadband zones" in the world - is that the people who design web pages act like the whole world is on broadband. A simple quick loading web page is getting to be a thing of the past. Just because the designers all have high speed internet doesn't mean that their audience and viewers all have it.

I have only had broadband available for less than a year. But when I talk to designers about designing for people on dial-up, they act like those people aren't your real customers. Make a page impossibly slow to load and that can be self-fulfilling. No they won't be your customers.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's been almost a year since this topic has been posted and broadband is still non-existent in the little suburb of karana downs. I've had the same problem for years, whilst all my friends are sitting on adsl2+ and cable connections streaming various media im pondering whether or not I should take the time to download a 10mb update.

Today I thought to myself, hmm, it could be worth getting wireless 3g broadband. I've since descovered karana downs must be the arse end of brisbane. No wireless either. Maybe Kevin Rudd will deliver on his promises and we'll step out into the world of technology sometime soon. Maybe 4-5 years.

graywave said...

Actually, Anonymous, it probably depends just where in Karana Downs you live. I used to live in Aringa Crescent and got a very good NextG signal.
However, although NextG is (barely) broadband, and much better than dial-up, your troubles will not end even if you build a big enough antenna. Fast-forward to my blog entries on NextG for the full, sorry saga. (Search the blog using 'NextG' or 'Telstra' and you'll get a full list of relevant postings.) Basically, NextG (Telstra's 3G service) is underpowered (max 1.5 Gb/sec), hugely expensive ($145/month for a basic service - less if you want less), technically throttled (e.g. you can't route the signal to multiple computers within your household!) and the download restrictions are disgraceful (top of the range is 3Gb per month up- and downloads included.)
I don't like Telstra.

Bob said...

I live in Nalya Crescent. (On the riverside near the Golf Course)

The things that I have been denied so far are:

ADSL1 (The nearest exchange is in Mt. Crosby. Karana Downs doesn't even have its own exchange)
ADSL2+ (Obviously)
Virgin Broadband (On the Optus 3g network)
Satellite (TV. Wouldn't consider it for internet. But still, Who gets denied satellite?)
And as of the end of the year, I will be denied ISDN.

NextG simply isn't an option. Without either a serious reduction in prices, or a serious increase in data quotas.

The Gray Wave Jukebox

Powered by iSOUND.COM