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Australia’s Prime Minister: ‘We Will Not Allow Anything to Block Our National Broadband Network’

Australia’s current Labor government has refused to compromise on its goal of delivering super-fast broadband service to nearly every Australian, declaring they will get the job done no matter what it takes.

“This government is determined to build a national broadband network and will not let anything get in its way,” declared Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Rudd was responding to critics from opposition political parties and some private providers who had been trying to throw up roadblocks to stop the government effort, which many private providers felt ceded too much control to the government.

Rudd’s plans to construct the network were bolstered with the release of a new study showing the construction and operating costs to be lower than previously thought.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Stephen Conroy

Lindsay Tanner, Australia’s Finance Minister, told colleagues, “The government would get its investment back and also, over the course of the investment, earn a modest return.”

Stephen Conroy, Communications Minister, promised wholesale pricing for the unlimited fiber-based service would range between $17.50-26.30US per month.  Retail pricing for entry-level ADSL broadband service from Telstra currently runs $35US per month, with a 2 GB monthly usage allowance.

Conroy previously threatened Telstra that if it didn’t want to help build the national network at a reasonable price, the government would do it themselves.

Tony Smith, opposition Shadow Communications Minister called Rudd’s insistence on a national fiber network reckless, irresponsible, and risky.

But for Australian consumers long subjected to expensive monthly prices for heavily usage limited service, 100Mbps service — or even slower, unlimited service — represents a major improvement.

[flv width=”512″ height=”308″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Network 10 Aus Cheap Broadband 6-21-10.flv[/flv]

The Ten Network in Australia ran this report on the current Australian government’s unwillingness to compromise away its goal for a national fiber network.  (2 minutes)

[flv width=”512″ height=”308″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Nine Australia National Broadband Plan Study 5-6-10.flv[/flv]

Channel Nine reports on the release of the broadband study showing Australia would save money building their own national broadband network instead of letting Telstra build it.  (1 minute)

Australia: 90 Percent of Our Residents Will Have 100Mbps, Fiber to the Home Service Within 8 Years

Phillip Dampier June 21, 2010 Broadband Speed, Community Networks, Competition, Data Caps, Public Policy & Gov't, Rural Broadband, Telstra, Video Comments Off on Australia: 90 Percent of Our Residents Will Have 100Mbps, Fiber to the Home Service Within 8 Years

Australia is set to leapfrog over the United States and Canada, declaring its intent to deliver fiber broadband service to the vast majority of its citizens within eight years.  The country embarked on a National Broadband Plan more than a year before the United States, declaring the current state of usage-limited, slow, expensive, and incomplete broadband coverage to be unacceptable.

Australia discarded an earlier plan to work with private providers to build the network when government officials faced opposition from private providers who did not want to lose control of the broadband market.  In a surprising decision last September, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the government would commence construction of a fiber to the home network itself, excluding private providers from participation.

NBN Company, a government-owned entity, will construct the $43 billion network over eight years, delivering 100Mbps speeds on a fiber network.  The infrastructure will be designed for an easy upgrade to 1 Gigabit service as bandwidth demand intensifies.

A separate deal concluded today with Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, will retire the nation’s copper wire landline network and cable systems, to be replaced by NBN fiber.

Up to 37,000 jobs will be created to build the network across the country, supplemented with wireless broadband for Australia’s most rural areas.

But some are complaining the network is too extravagant and expensive, adding their displeasure with the Rudd government’s strong-arming of Telstra to give up its network.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said taxpayers would be on the hook for the project.

“It’ll come with a multi-billion dollar taxpayer debt that will have to be paid off over decades,” Robb said, adding if elected, the opposition promises to scrap the plan.

[flv width=”424″ height=”260″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Nine Network New National Broadband Plan 4-6-09.flv[/flv]

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd originally introduced his nationwide fiber network proposal in April 2009.  Channel Nine provides this roundup of the original announcement, media reaction, and a few insults from the opposition.  Just a day after the plan was introduced, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy warned Telstra to “back off,” referring to the company’s immediate lobbying effort to block the proposal.  (11 minutes)

Australian Government Buys Telstra’s Copper Wire Landline Network to Scrap It

Phillip Dampier June 21, 2010 Broadband Speed, Community Networks, Competition, Data Caps, Public Policy & Gov't, Rural Broadband, Telstra, Video Comments Off on Australian Government Buys Telstra’s Copper Wire Landline Network to Scrap It

Prime Minister Rudd announcing the deal between Telstra and the federal government.

Australia has taken the first step towards 100Mbps unlimited broadband service this weekend as an agreement was reached to decommission the country’s copper wire phone network, replacing it with fiber connections to 90 percent of Australian homes.

After months of heated negotiations between Telstra and the federal government, Telstra CEO David Thodey this morning joined Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the podium to announce the $11 billion deal.  Telstra will agree to scrap its copper-wire phone system and make way for the federal government’s new fiber network.

Rudd claimed the deal would benefit everyone because it would permanently retire an obsolete network with easily-upgradable fiber, connected right to the home.  Under Rudd’s previously announced National Broadband Plan, the government would finance the construction of the fiber network and lease access to any provider, including Telstra, at wholesale pricing.

In addition to an $11 billion offer, Telstra is expected to keep the estimated $580 million the company could earn from recycling more than 70 million kilometers of copper phone wiring no longer needed.  Another $1 billion will be earned from real estate sales.  At least 3,000 telephone exchange offices are expected to be declared redundant after switching to the fiber network, bringing Telstra plenty of additional earnings as those properties are sold off.

“I can’t stress enough just how complex this certain negotiation has been, because we’ve had to look at commercial issues, what the future of the business would be, what the structure of the industry would be, but we have got to this position and we are pleased to have done so, because it does give us clarity, and that’s what this company needs,” Thodey said. “Firstly we’ve got to grow our share of the market, we’ve got to simplify this business to take the unnecessary complexity [out], and we are going to continue now to build and invest in building new products and services to work in an NBN world.”

The agreement gives NBN Company, the government-owned entity building the fiber network, access to Telstra’s outdoor facilities to house the fiber network, saving the government billions in construction costs.  Telstra has also agreed to purchase wholesale access to the new network and will also decommission its coaxial cable-based systems, moving customers to the new fiber facilities as built.

Telstra will continue to operate its wireless mobile network and satellite TV business independent of the government broadband project.  For Telstra, in return for giving up control of broadband, the company is also freed from its universal phone service obligations which required it to provide service to any Australian that asked.

Telstra shareholders liked what they saw as the stock soared in value earlier this morning, but Thodey urged some caution.

“We believe that this is an important milestone towards getting [the deal done], but I want to stress it’s only a milestone, because it’s a non-binding financial heads of agreement that sets us on a road to get to a definitive agreement over the next period,” Thodey said.

[flv width=”512″ height=”308″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Network 10 Aus Broadband Deal 6-21-10.flv[/flv]

Network 10 covered the deal between Telstra and the federal government in its weekend news report.  (4 minutes)

Telstra Increases Download Quotas, But Australian Broadband Is Still An Overcharger’s Paradise

Glenice Maclellan, Telstra's point person on broadband, has recently discovered Australians don't just want to browse the web and read e-mail on their broadband service.

Glenice Maclellan, Telstra's point person on broadband, has recently discovered Australians don't just want to browse the web and read e-mail on their broadband service.

Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, has responded to customers leaving their broadband service over its fraudband speeds and paltry usage caps by increasing both, but not nearly enough to change perceptions that Australian providers still serve up slow, overpriced and restrictive service.

Telstra’s CEO David Thodey, who replaced the oft-despised Sol Trujillo, told investors what every Australian contemplating broadband service already knows: “In some parts of the market we’ve gone too far out of line and we need to come back. We must focus on our core business and our customers, this is where we create value for shareholders. At its simplest, the next stage in Telstra’s long-term strategy is to focus on satisfying customers, invest in new capabilities, and drive growth in new businesses.”

Thodey’s approach is to do away with the company’s downright lousy “broadband” service in many rural areas of Australia.  More accurately called “fraudband,” there are still many Australians suffering with Telstra BigPond service that tops out at a ridiculously slow 256kbps.  And because company officials suspect you’ll even use that too much, they slapped a usage cap as low as 200 megabytes on the service, with a war crime overlimit fee of $0.15 per megabyte thereafter.  Your low price?  $27US a month.  For that.  But you can double your allowance to 400 megabytes for a mere $9US more per month.  Grab the bargain.

Effective December 1st, Telstra will move its rural customers to 1996-level broadband service, offering 1.5Mbps minimum to those doing their web surfing over DSL lines.  For those paying $27 a month, they’re increasing your usage allowance to a still-paltry 2 gigabytes per month, and leaving the $0.15/mb overlimit fee in place.  Most DSL customers stuck on these plans will be herded up to the $36 a month plan which is “generous” in comparison with a new download quota of 12 gigabytes per month and no overlimit fee.  Instead, once you hit your limit, they cut your speed to 64kbps for the rest of the month.

Oh but wait, there are some more gotchas:

  • Unless you are bundling your molasses-slow Internet service with a phone line package that brings Telstra at least $81US per month in revenue, add $9 to these plan prices.  You wouldn’t want Telstra management to go home hungry, would you?
  • Uploads are also a part of your usage allowance.
  • Many of their plans lock you in with a 24-month service commitment.  They’ve got you right where they want you.

If you find Telstra’s Oliver Twistian-usage allowances leave you hungry for more, no worries.  Telstra will happily upgrade your service to a higher usage plan, with correspondingly higher prices, by the following day.  That’s good to know if Microsoft obliterated a good part of your usage allowance for the month with critical Windows updates.

Or you could always take your business elsewhere, as many budget conscious Australians have.  Thodey’s fear about out-of-touch broadband pricing is real when considering Telstra’s competitor iiNet offers 4GB (2GB peak/2GB off peak) for just about the same price Telstra charges for its $27 a month/200 megabyte plan.

The company has also recently discovered that Australians want to use their broadband service for more than just web browsing and e-mail.  That’s apparently news to Telstra management, who threw this into their PR push:

“Telstra’s new plans cater for the changing ways Australians use broadband for communications and entertainment at home.  Gone are the days when broadband was used only to check email or internet surf. Australian families now also use broadband to download videos, play online games, or check social networking sites all at the same time”. — Glenice Maclellan, the Acting Group Managing Director of the Consumer division, Telstra

Thanks, Glenice.  The only problem here is that Australians didn’t get to do those things much because of your rationed broadband plans which either overcharged them if they tried, or speed throttled them back to dial-up as a reminder not to be a naughty data hog.

Now, Australians can at least feed at the trough… for a little while.

Telstra offers other plans, which vary on whether you qualify for ADSL 1 service (original DSL) or live in an urban/suburban area upgraded for ADSL 2 or cable modem service.  All prices hereafter are in Australian dollars – $10AUD = $0.91US at time of writing):

New Broadband Pricing for full service fixed phone customers

Monthly MB allowance+

Standard preselect pricing on a 12 month plan ^

Price incl $10

discount on a 24 month plan#,^

Price incl $20 discount with on a 24 month plan and one other eligible Telstra service~,^

Standard preselect pricing on a 12 month plan ^

Price incl $10 discount on a 24 month plan#,^

Price incl $20 discount on a 24 month plan and one other eligible Telstra service~,^

BigPond Turbo

ADSL & Cable

BigPond Elite

ADSL & Cable

2GB (excess usage charged at $0.15MB) $39.95 $29.95 n/a $49.95 $39.95 $29.95
BigPond Liberty 12GB** $59.95 $49.95 $39.95 $69.95 $59.95 $49.95
BigPond Liberty 25GB** $79.95 $69.95 $59.95 $89.95 $79.95 $69.95
BigPond Liberty 50GB** $99.95 $89.95 $79.95 $109.95 $99.95 $89.95
BigPond Liberty 100GB** $119.95 $109.95 $99.95 $129.95 $119.95 $109.95
BigPond Liberty 200GB** $169.95 $159.95 $149.95 $179.95 $169.95 $159.95
**Speeds slowed to 64Kbps after monthly allowance is reached
# Requires Single Bill and combined minimum monthly access fee of at least $59.
~ Other eligible service types are a Telstra mobile, BigPond wireless broadband or FOXTEL from Telstra on a single bill, with a minimum combined monthly access fee of at least $89.
+Unused allowance expires monthly.

Those prices are enough to give North American providers dreams of Money Parties in their heads forever.  Only Time Warner Cable came close with their infamous $150 unlimited usage plan they tried to stick customers with in several cities this past April.

That platinum-deluxe BigPond Liberty 200GB plan bundled with a TV package will cost you more than $4,560US over the life of the 24-month contract.

Australians continue to wait for a National Broadband Network plan that the government says should finally free Australians from a life of being told you have to spend more… a lot more, to save just a little from companies like Telstra.

A spoof on Telstra’s BigPond Internet Support Call Center (1 minute)

Navigating Australian Broadband: A Quick Roundup of Several National Broadband Plans

ausUntil the National Broadband Plan is in place and additional capacity is brought online, Australians make do with usage limited broadband service from Brisbane to Perth.  With prices all over the map, choosing the right plan to minimize your exposure to Internet Overcharging schemes is more important than ever.

VoIP-Sol.com, an independent blog covering the global broadband market, took a look at several popular options and discovered some revealing findings (All prices in Australian dollars – $1AUD = $0.91US — Stated speeds are relative and reflect the maximum possible, not necessarily the actual):

The Fastest Broadband Plan in Australia
BigPond’s 30,000Kbps +400MB cable plan is the fastest available (that speed available in select areas of Melbourne and Sydney only — up to 17Mbps service elsewhere), but at a hefty price: $49.95 a month with a cap of 400 megabytes. Data past the cap is charged $0.15 per megabyte. BigPond will discount the monthly charge by $10 if it is bundled with a Telstra home phone line. This plan requires a monthly contract, and there is no peak time.

The Australian Broadband Plan With the Biggest Cap
iPrimus’s Big Kahuna and Dodo’s Rhodium plan both come with 200gb of service each month over ADSL. Dodo’s setup fee of $69.99, but the monthly charge is $10 a month cheaper than iPriumus at $69.95 a month, and an additional $10 is discounted for Dodo’s home phone customers. The Big Kahuna could go on the fastest list at 24,000Kbps, while Rhodium is a still impressive 20,000Kbps. (Keep in mind ADSL speeds vary considerably depending on how far away you are from the telephone company’s exchange office.)

Australia’s Cheapest Broadband Internet Plan
The Starter Plan from Netspace may seem like a bargain with speeds of 20,000kbps for only $9.95 a month, but the setup fee is a staggering $149.

Dodo Bronze is $19.90 a month, or $9.90 a month when bundled with one of their home phones, beating Netspace by five cents. However, this gives you a tiny download cap of 150mb, with an equally low download speed of 256kbps. Excess data is charged at $0.18 per megabyte, which even the most frugal user will probably reach. The Bronze plan also requires a twenty-four month contract.

Surprisingly, the next cheapest option is Optus’ Mobile Wireless Broadband. When included with mobile or home phone service, Optus charges $19.99 a month for cellular-based Internet. Like Dodo Bronze, the download speed is limited to 256Kbps, while downloads are capped at 1 GB. Most people who buy this plan will be more interested in the service’s convenience than its performance.

There are many other regional services available in different parts of the country with their own pricing and policies.  But nearly all share a usage cap combined with “peak” and “off-peak” usage pricing, designed to prod you into confining use of your highest bandwidth applications during off-peak hours (typically between midnight and noon).  Many providers give you a bonus usage allowance to use during off peak hours, often much higher than the peak usage allowance.  In Australia, providers don’t necessarily punish you with overlimit fees and penalties for exceeding your limit, they just turn the speed of your connection down… often way down (64kbps, slightly faster than dial-up, is common) once your limit is reached for the month.  Speeds return when a new billing period begins.

Australians complain about paltry usage caps with such regularity, the government has set about constructing better broadband infrastructure to improve service.  Private providers have dragged their feet, preferring slower upgrade paths and tamping down demand with usage limitations, reducing the need to invest in their networks.  Domestic online video services and other high bandwidth innovation is greatly stifled in the country because of punishing usage limits which make consumers fear using them.

With the expansion of international connectivity and a more robust domestic network, Australians look forward to the day they can see usage caps as a thing of their past.

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