Cable Internet in Australia has been around for a few years. There are only two players. Big Pond Broadband, owned by Australia's largest telco, Telstra and Optus@Home, a joint venture between the US ISP @Home and Australia's second largest telco Optus.
Optus@Home has a single access plan. $64AU (around $32US) gives you "flat rate" access (slightly more if you don't want to pay for the modem up front). By "flat rate" (formerly "unlimited", they have since been barred from using the word unlimited by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) they mean you don't pay for downloads, however they reserve the right to terminate your account should your usage "represent an unusually large burden on the Optus@Home Network", defined as exceeding 10 times the customer average over a 14 day period. They have a strict residential only policy, no businesses can connect to their service.
Big Pond has a number of pricing plans. The most popular for consumer access gives you "flat rate" access, but a capped speed of 512kbps down and 128kbps up for $72AU ($36US). Again "flat rate" means they can terminate you if "in our reasonable opinion creates an undue burden to our network" however they don't define the volume that they would consider degrading.
In order to get an uncapped cable connection with Telstra you need to go on a business plan, $71.50 for 500meg then 18.9c per meg after that.
For a residential service Optus is clearly the better deal, however Telstra, who up until the last few years were a government utility with a monopoly on all telecommunications services and who still own the majority of telecommunications infrastructure in this country, have greater coverage. Both services are confined to the eastern capital cities Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
In the ADSL market there is only one real player in the residential market. Again it is Big Pond Broadband. ADSL pricing is somewhat steeper than cable, $89AU ($44US) will get you 512 down and 128 up with a "flat rate" policy similar to their cable service. $116 will get you 1500 down and 256 up, 500meg and 18.9c for every meg after that.
Other ISPs, most notable iPrimus have attempted residential flat rate ADSL, but have found it impossible and have switched to volume based plans only. As Telstra own all the copper cables, they make it difficult for anyone else to get in on the action.
Telstra's near monopoly is usually cited as the reason for the cost and lack of choice in broadband. Another reason is the distance between Australia and the US. Due to the fact that as an english speaking and largely American influenced country, Australians access the majority of their Internet content from the USA. This means Australian ISPs need to meet the significant costs of bandwidth between Australia and the US (and from there the rest of the world).
It doesn't look good for Australians, but is it as bad as it seems? According to @Home in the US, "Monthly subscription prices range from $35 to $55 per month" - $70 to $110 AU, pretty much on par with what Australian users pay (@Home prices vary by cable provider). Road Runner pricing is "on average" $39.95 per month, around $80 AU. While both advertise as "unlimited" @Home at least has the same "unusually large burden" fine print. If Road Runner has any sort of acceptable use policy, it is well hidden.
So it would appear that on paper at least, Australians aren't getting it too bad. But what is the reality? If you are a broadband user, or if you wish you were, what is it really like in your part of the world? How much does it cost? Do you get what you pay for? Does you unlimited provider have any hidden fineprint? Have you ever fallen victim to it? Do you think what I've described as the Australian experience is bad, or is it what you would expect as adequate?