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Raising Doubts About Australia's Broadband Upgrade Plan 98

Posted by timothy
from the doubt-doubt-doubt dept.
RcK writes "In addition to the rising controversy of the possible Australian version of the Great Firewall Of China already mentioned several times of late here on Slashdot; the viability of the proposed AU$5Billion internet infrastructure upgrade promised by the Federal Government during their 2007 election campaign is under fire. The MD of arguably Australia's leading internet company, iinet, has branded the proposal a waste of taxpayers money. Steve Ballmer, during his current Australian visit, has also weighed in on the topic and diplomatically indicated that Australia should get on with the job. Much of the current criticism appears to surround the likelihood of people in remote areas being left out of the proposed plan. Ironically, where I lived previously (remote town in central Aus — nearest town over 400km away) everyone had, at the absolute least, subsidized satellite internet, and most had ADSL. In my case a flawless 512k connection for ~4years. However, I now live 5 minutes from the center of a capital city and due to archaic telephone infrastructure cannot get ADSL, and even line noise is too great for dialup!" Today's front page at Whirlpool Broadband News also features several articles relating to the saga.
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Raising Doubts About Australia's Broadband Upgrade Plan

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  • Good job... (Score:5, Funny)

    by djupedal (584558) on Friday November 07, 2008 @03:06AM (#25672601)
    > "However, I now live 5 minutes from the center of a capital city and due to archaic telephone infrastructure cannot get ADSL, and even line noise is too great for dialup!"

    Must have taken hours just to type that sentence. That's what I call d e d i c a t i o n!!
    • > "However, I now live 5 minutes from the center of a capital city and due to archaic telephone infrastructure cannot get ADSL, and even line noise is too great for dialup!"

      Must have taken hours just to type that sentence. That's what I call d e d i c a t i o n!!

      Actually, with a little practice you can get pretty fast with a telegraph. But tapping out the http headers probably slowed things down a bit.

    • Re:Good job... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by theaveng (1243528) on Friday November 07, 2008 @07:49AM (#25673933)

      What I can't figure out is why he can't get dialup. Even on noisy hotel lines, I can still get 19-24 kbit/s connections. And on clean home lines, the U.S. Congress passed a bill in 1996 to upgrade everyone to digital phones. That way even rural residents can get at least 50k connections via their digital modems. I'm surprised Australia didn't have a similar analog-to-digital phone upgrade.

      The quickest-and-fastest way to provide broadband to rural communities is to simply install DSLAMS on existing phone connections. No need to dig everything up, or install new wires. When my phone company did this, I instantly went from 50k to 6000k connections. Now a rural farmhouse in the middle of nowhere might not be able to go that fast, but they should still be able to achieve ~500k connections using DSL.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Aramgutang (620327)
        At least he's lucky enough to even have a home line. I live 20 min away by foot (or 5 min by bus) from Sydney CBD (Central Business District), and my house isn't even wired for a phone line. The house in the middle of a heavily residential area (Glebe), it's not too old or new, and it's got 3 floors with 3 one- or two-bedroom apartments on each floor.

        Telstra demands $700 to connect the house to the phone line, and neither the landlord nor the tenants will cough up the money. Hence I'm stuck with a wirele
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What I can't figure out is why he can't get dialup.

        Starts with a "T" and ends in "elstra".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        What I can't figure out is why he can't get dialup.

        Probably on a pair gain [whirlpool.net.au] line.

      • by Rakeris (1114111)

        U.S. Congress passed a bill in 1996 to upgrade everyone to digital phones. That way even rural residents can get at least 50k connections via their digital modems.

        The quickest-and-fastest way to provide broadband to rural communities is to simply install DSLAMS on existing phone connections.

        Not sure where you live, but where I live it's AT&T land, and they don't give a rats' ass. I am 5 minutes outside of the capital of IL. We have one dial up line at the house and we consider connecting at 41k fast.

        DSLAMS, I wish. Everyone in the area and I have been trying to get them to do that for a decade. But there is no competition and there is no way for anyone to compete, so they don't care.

        The only thing remotely like competition, is there is one WiMax and a couple WDSL providers in the area.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by shirro (17185)

        The previous Australian government subsidized ADSL DSLAMS for rural communities and subsidized wireless and satellite for people beyond DSL range.

        Some farms do have unbelievably bad land lines. I have seen some that can't sustain 9600 but these are line faults. I have seen others that are not much better where it is an infrastructure issue - the phone company refuses to lay more copper, fix ongoing problems or is using obsolete pair gain systems. Affordable digital line plans got withdrawn by Telstra, perha

      • I'm not surprised. Since the sale of Telstra many of the line techies have been riffed and those left are under enormous pressure to get repairs done as quickly and cheaply as possible. Add that to the debacle with the faulty sealant on the cans and it is surprising that any lines work at all.
  • by Laser_iCE (1125271) on Friday November 07, 2008 @03:22AM (#25672649)
    The point that they're playing on the fact that the majority of Australians have no idea how technology works, nor do they have any understanding about the terminology behind it. Simple things like you mention to someone, "I use a 512k connection" -- they would assume that you would be downloading at 512kb/s, not 1/8th of that.

    Couple this with the fact that IT has always been the sort of subject that kids used to figure out ways to get around their schools proxy (so they can waste time on bebo at school instead of actually hanging out with their friends), rather than learning how a computer works.

    This is also the reason why Australians get sucked into those stupid Nigerian scams so easy -- because a lot of us don't use common sense. Not saying that Australia is alone in any of these aspects, it just seems to be that because our Government has no idea how the series of tubes works, the rest of the country hasn't really taken any interest. Discussion about things like the proposed internet filter are great for the general public, because it gives them a chance to understand how intricate the internet and networking in general is...

    Or they roll your eyes at you and put their iPod headphones back in -- they won't have to worry about security with Web 2.0.

    [/rant]
    • by tick-tock-atona (1145909) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:04AM (#25672787)
      I'm not sure which Australia you're living in, but I think the general public here has pretty good tech knowledge. The government, on the other hand, is made up of idiots like Conroy and Fielding - who, from their public comments, are puritan Luddite's.

      The party's good intentions are there, it's just that those charged with delivering a product (Conroy) have no idea what they are doing. I think he's been so sidetracked with his little pet project of internet censorship, that he's forgotten what the "Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy" is actually supposed to do.

      And none of this is helped by the resident monopoly Telstra [theage.com.au] who, following privatisation, have abused their monopoly on telecommunications infrastructure in an attempt to keep competition at a minimum. The Howard government simply didn't ensure healthy competition was possible following the transition of Telstra to private ownership.
      • Fielding isn't in government, just the senate.

      • by Alphax.au (913011)
        Here's an extract for an advertisement for graduate positions at the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy:

        Degree/disciplines:
        Economics | Science | Public Policy | Law | Commerce | Arts | Social Science | Accounting

        Nothing about Computer Science/IT or Engineering (Electronic, Telecommunications, Computer Systems, Software); they Just Don't Care about the technological issues. Granted, that was an ad for graduate positions, but it wouldn't surprise me if they don't have a single geek at the management/policy level either. Sadly that's the way most of the world is going; management is m

    • Nonsense. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BrokenHalo (565198)
      The point that they're playing on the fact that the majority of Australians have no idea how technology works, nor do they have any understanding about the terminology behind it.

      You seem to be claiming that Australians are somehow different from other humans. I am not Australian by birth, but I've been living there for a few years, and I've observed that the geek quotient of the population seems to be quite high. What makes an Australian any more likely to get sucked in by a scam than, say, an American?

      T
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Laser_iCE (1125271)
        Well you obviously didn't read the rest of my post when I clearly pointed out:

        Not saying that Australia is alone in any of these aspects

        The trouble is, I see a lot of kids who say they know a lot about technology, they're interested in gadgets and high tech gear, but when it comes down to actually being able to google for something, or to trouble shoot software when an unexpected error occurs, or even something as simple as going through the options in a program to see what you can change/customize --
        • by donaldm (919619)
          The problem is most people (I am including world here) don't have any clue about technology and appear quite happy not to learn. Back in the 1980's I used to train clerical, engineers and scientists on using Unix and I never met anyone I could not train, be it command line or GUI (I am still talking early 1980's).

          When PC's finally started to make their appearance I found it harder to teach clerical people because they seemed to have developed a GUI based mentality and thought it was quite normal to boot
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by imroy (755)

        The trouble is, the new government doesn't really want to actually _do_ anything, their preference being to push pieces of paper around and bleat platitudes.

        Just as soon as they form a taskforce to investigate which pieces of paper to push and which platitudes to bleat. I voted Labor last year and I'm still waiting for them to do much beyond repealing Work Choices. Fucking do something!

        • by bh_doc (930270)
          To be fair, there was Kyoto, and that "Sorry" thing. But it has been pretty much "Okay, now what?" since then.
    • The point that they're playing on the fact that the majority of Australians have no idea how technology works

      Replace Australians with people and you get a more global sense. Probably close to 30% of all computer users understand the difference between kB/s and kbps.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        that's an awefully generous figure your quoting there. i would say more like 10-15% the fact is the average person shouldn't have to know it. UI are for the most part horrible, and artificially and sometimes randomly limiting in choices one can do.

    • <rant>

      I remember watching the National Press Club Address about five years ago from the then-current parliamentary technology adviser who lamented that Australians have the highest acceptance of technological devices in the world, yet most people have no idea, or intention, to use them beyond their rudimentary functions.

      For example, the majority have a multimedia phone, and the majority of those people use call and text at most. 60% of households (circa 2003 figures) have a computer connected t

      • by theaveng (1243528)

        Have you ever thought people don't use technology to its fullest simply because *they don't want to*? I am an engineer, and I understand how things work, but I still don't use my cellphone for anything except voicecalls. I don't even text. It's not that I don't know how, but I simply don't want to pay the expensive bill. Not when I can "text" on the internet for free (email and usenet and livejournal).

        As for enrollment being down, I don't understand that bit. Maybe it's just part of the natural ebb an

        • And what is it like now? So desperate they let you in?
        • by jaminJay (1198469)

          Have you ever thought people don't use technology to its fullest simply because *they don't want to*?

          Yes. That was the point. People aren't interested in technology beyond their immediate needs.

    • by theaveng (1243528)

      "I use a 512k connection" -- they would assume that you would be downloading at 512kb/s, not 1/8th of that.

      Um... if you have a 512k connection then you ARE downloading at 512kb/s (kilobit/second). Maybe you meant something else?

    • by AlanS2002 (580378)

      Simple things like you mention to someone, "I use a 512k connection" -- they would assume that you would be downloading at 512kb/s, not 1/8th of that.

      They would be assuming correctly. They would be assuming incorrectly if they were to think that you would were downloading at 512kB/s.

    • by wisty (1335733)
      It's not about technical capability. From reading the Australian, it seems to me that Telstra wants to win the contract but make it a monopoly, the other group (Optus, et al) want to slow Telstra down so their crappy old lines stay competitive for as long as possible, and the government wants Telstra (or the other guys) to build the network, then rent it to their competitors at a good rate. I bet that all the players have massive PR budgets, so the papers just re-print the fluff that the lobbyists wrote.
    • Or they roll your eyes at you and put their iPod headphones back in -- they won't have to worry about security with Web 2.0.

      That sounds like home...

      It's really not just Australia. I think it's just that, because Australia is sadly not a big content producer, nobody wants to link up to it, and nobody wants to produce content there because no big names are there, because nobody wants to link up to it, etc.

      Ignorance about computers (even the basic of security, as in, "be careful") is widespread no matter where you are; but I think it only changes based on how many "geeks" (um, EXPERT INTERNETS? the slashdot crowd...) you've got aro

  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday November 07, 2008 @03:27AM (#25672663)
    People are still paying attention to Steve Ballmer???
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Idiomatick (976696) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:07AM (#25673035)

      Steve balmer if you RTFA says highspeed internet is a good thing, he says that the future of computing is online. And he says 21mbps wireless is fucking awesome. All of these things /. agrees with. Try not to trash the guy when he's not throwing chairs thats just flaming.

    • by jabithew (1340853)

      People are still paying attention to Steve Ballmer???

      The man is CEO of the company that produces the most commonly used desktop OS (with between 90-95% market share, from browser IDs). Microsoft has a market capitalisation of US$230billion, which is more than the annual GDP of Venezuela. His company's web browser has something like 80% market penetration.

      You would have to be an absolute moron not to listen to this man, with the amount of power he has.

      • You mean the man who has been behind the accelerating decreasing market share and endless other problems Microsoft has faced recently, now that Gates is out of the picture?

        His company HAD about 80% market penetration. Even that has been declining rapidly. Safari, Firefox, and even Google Chrome, with it's terrible name and worse architecture, are grabbing larger and larger chunks every day. Explorer 7 was successful only to the extent that Explorer 6 sucks (which is a great deal) so 7 is a great improvem
  • Quite a lot of people in Australia can already get a working ADSL connnection. They aren't going to rush out to sign up to a new network if it will cost twice as much per month and not necessarily offer higher bandwidth. I've read that this is one of the obstacles to the "build an entire new network from scratch" approach.

    Another idea of building lower-cost add-ons such as wireless where coverage isn't currently available was planned by the previous government administration, and cancelled by the current

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Goldenjera (1040584)

      Most of us are still on ASDL 1. Anything to upgrade the country's internet!

      Telstra ...have abused their monopoly on telecommunications infrastructure in an attempt to keep competition at a minimum

      I am sick of the deals Telstra offer (poor speed, not much usage, and steep prices) telling us that they are "great deals". I'm not well read about the rest of the world, but I'm on a cap of 5Gb, which gets used up very quickly, and my parents seem to believe that that is "impossible".

      While people of the younger generations are quite smart (@ Laser iCE: Have you seen the blacklist in schools now-a-days? We can access wikipedia,the Bo

      • by rdnetto (955205)

        I feel for you - I only recently upgraded from a crappy Telstra connection to iiNet - they were the only ones who provided ADSL2+ in my area, and I got a 60 GB quota as well :D

        I know what you mean about the blacklist - at my school, we don't even get full access to wikipedia; they've blocked all the images. Real fun when you're trying to read a math-based article without any equations :(

    • Quite a lot of people in Australia can already get a working ADSL connnection.

      Indeed. At my home in Perth, I have an excellent ADSL2+ connection, but where I work, only 160km away, the best available is only 512K. And that is only a recent fixture. A couple of years ago we had to use a satellite connection, which blows goats if you're trying to use any kind of VOIP. The real trouble is, the country is too big and sparsely populated (outside metropolitan areas) to make it attractive for telcos to spend mon
  • by Firrenzi (229219)

    One thing that I cannot understand about Australian, particularly in Brisbane is the attitude of 'Australia: love it or leave' combined with the surreptitious nationalism. Our easy going nature is simply apathy that we will not admit to. When constructive criticism is made, it is often met with derision by the general populace because it is not the Australian way. For all the multiculturalism in this country, tt concerns me the bigotry, racism and provincial mindset that so many have on this island.

    Sadl

    • by TheLink (130905)
      "I guess we shouldn't knock bacteria, after all it's the only culture that some people have in this country."

      I thought you all had Vegemite too :).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We are the 51st state of the US (foreign policy, economic policy, etc) , and have learnt it's lessons and bettered them.

      The real problem is that Australians believe this, because we want it to be true, yet it's actually entirely false. Even though we are dedicated to the ideal of shedding our "embarrassing" Aussieness in favour of "sophisticated" and "important" Americana, we're still just a bunch of kids playing dress-up in their mum and dad's clothes. As much as we love to believe we're really American, w

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You are full of shit. Most people in Australia I know and hang-out with have quite negative view of America and would hate to be thought of as being American. Perhaps you meant to say "some Australians".

        Just because you are embarrassed to be an Aussie, don't assume the rest of are thanks.

    • by kubrick (27291)

      surreptitious nationalism

      Surreptitious? It's overt nationalism and racism if you ask me, and I was born here.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pff...by the time we get this, the filters will be in place and it'll bring us back up to our current speeds anyways...Filter + Upgrade = Waste of money that could be better spent extending broadband availability to regional and remote Australia.

  • by Raindeer (104129) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:32AM (#25673415) Homepage Journal
    Paul Budde [buddeblog.com.au] an Australian Broadband honcho had the following experience with Telstra and the way they see broadband:

    Telstra and Freedom of speech Last week I was involved in an interesting but disheartening incident - one that further highlights the problems we are facing with Telstra in Australia.

    Tomorrow I will be chairing Day One of the Broadband World conference, organised by terrapin. This event included a panel session entitled 'Can open access regulation truly work in Australia without retail separation?' in which Telstra had agreed to participate.

    At the last moment, however, Telstra asked the conference organisers to withdraw two people from the panel, saying they wouldn't participate otherwise. It was also very interesting to see that they even came up with the names of the people they would like as replacements. more [buddeblog.com.au]

  • What really ticked me off about the proposal by the Rudd Government was that they said they would bring everyone on to a 10 mbit connection. WTF? If you are going to spend 5 billion dollars of taxpayer money, and build new infrastructure anyway why not shoot for 1000 mbit connections for everyone? Whats the point in aiming so low that in 5 years time it wont matter if you succeed anyway?

    Ultimately I never thought it would go through. To those in the USA, if you think your Telcos are bad, you need to come to

  • I'm not being funny here. Why is broadband rollout, even if only to metropolitan areas, such an issue in Australia? I honestly would like some knowledgeable people to explain it.

    • Because Australia generally has low quality broadband distribution. It's concentrated on the major metropolis's, and costs a lot more then services in other areas. Even our ISPs have given up on peering agreements - with download caps now, even downloading within Australia chews your bandwidth (and why though? The big expense for us is undersea cables so internal traffic should be cheap).
    • by shirro (17185)

      Broadband access is not bad in Australia. It just isn't as good as some other places.

      We have a small population and we are a long way from the rest of the world.

      We all speak English (debatable I know) and consume massive amounts of US culture (and UK,Canada,NZ etc). So our links to the rest of the world work hard, we have download caps and lag! Arghhh! So a fast national network doesn't mean the same thing to us that it might to a country like Korea.

      Unless there is a cavern with a big switch buried somewher

    • by Alphax.au (913011)
      Go to the Whirlpool Broadband Choice Plan Search [whirlpool.net.au] and have a play. Then compare with broadband access in <insert your country here>. The conclusions are left as an exercise for the reader.
      • by jabithew (1340853)

        Interesting experiment, thank you. Tried to spec up a plan like the one I have here in London (£18 pcm, 1.3meg up, 18meg down, no limits, no shaping, included (PoS) wireless modem router. It just doesn't exist, even in Sydney.

    • by jonwil (467024)

      Its all the fault of Telstra (the company that owns all the phone wires).
      During the 80s and 90s and up to today, as all the many new housing estates were being built, Telstra took the cheap way out and installed RIMs. A RIM is a box which takes a whole pile of copper wires from the local area and combines them into a fatter pipe (which may be a copper wire or more likely these days is a fiber optic link) back to the exchange. Thing is, if you are one of the unfortunate people stuck on these RIMs, you genera

      • by thogard (43403)

        Its not so much owning the phone lines but owning the conduit its in and charging $7 per meter per year for anyone else to use it. If the local councils took back ownership of that as a right of way (like it was back in the day when the PMG ran the phones), then local carriers would be able to run fibre to the home. Right now my house is about 300 meters away from getting fibre but it might as well be half a world away.

  • by bobby1234 (860820)

    I live in a new suburb in Melbourne and the infrastructure installed in the new suburb by Telstra (the local monopoly) is Fibre to the Node. Which is great. Except they go an put rubbish equipment at the nodes. So across the suburb about 40% of people can get ADSL1 and the rest get nothing (except a basic phone line).

    I spent 4 months sending applications to the local ISP until eventually one of my neighbours sells up and disconnects from the node and luckily I get his spot.

    This is not as uncommon.

  • But if the government encourages faster Internet speeds, the government-required filtering equipment has to be bigger and more expensive in order to handle the larger amount of data. So it only makes sense to spend less on filtering by using slower Internet connections.
  • Surely you can get 2400 bps with error-correction protocols enabled.

    What, your service provider doesn't offer 2400 bps connections? Well, don't blame that on phone line noise.

    Survey: Who has loaded a web page over a 300bps or less dialup connection? I'm not talking a nominally-faster connection with low throughput I'm talking an actual, 300bps connection.

  • take fast internet for granted.

    I met a young Australian guy (about my age) in a bar last summer. He was shocked that FREE wireless (hotel/coffee shop) internet was faster than ANYTHING he could dream of buying at home.
    We really need Australians on the internet... I don't want to seem racist- but the one's I have met all seem to have the greatest personalities (much more interesting than us...)
    As an aside- it's funny that the ONLY thing Americans know about their culture is what we see in movies... an
    • take fast internet for granted.

      Not those of us that live in a rural area. When one has to put up a 200 foot tower, with beam antenna, amp, and 600LMR cable just to get EV-DO access, and that is intermittent, because the only option is dial-up at 18k on a good day, one does not take it for granted.

      • by Chees0rz (1194661)
        but those areas voted for McCain... so I tend not to include them in my "America" (intended as a joke- I hope not too offensive...)
  • Since they are on the southern hemisphere they need to remember to turn the routers upside down before they install them, assuming the routers were produced in the northern hemisphere. Otherwise it really would be a waste of money because everyone would have to browse upside down, or at least flip their monitors over when using the Internet.

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