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Australia's Telstra still cannot get ADSL to work..

By waulok in Internet
Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 04:07:04 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

This article from The Australian IT News...

TELSTRA'S troubled BigPond broadband service crashed again yesterday, leaving subscribers without access to email for the third day in the past five. BigPond cable subscribers were without email for almost 24 hours on Thursday and again for much of Sunday.

The mail service crash yesterday took ADSL customers with it, and though services were restored by early yesterday afternoon, technicians were still struggling to isolate the problem later in the day.

Telstra's ADSL email has been down more than up for more than the last month. They continually have "Technical difficulties". The ADSL service itself continues to have problems and Telstra refuses any compensation regardless of the fact that their email service at least, hardly ever works:

BigPond spokesman Stuart Gray said subscribers would not be compensated for the loss of service.

"Under our conditions of use, we do not offer refunds or compensation for loss of service due to technical problems," he said.

Business could apply through the normal BigPond channels for compensation, but they must be able to present evidence of loss resulting from the loss of service, he said.

Telstra quotes their "Acceptable Use Policy" (which contains clauses letting them change the AUP whenever they want to) daily in the news as they have problem after problem. There is going to come a time when Telstra can no longer hide behind this shield as they annoy more and more users. Many users have already given up on ADSL since the 3Gb per month cap was put on their advertised Unlimited service (Telstra advertised the service with "No download limits"). Others have had to put up with it as Cable is not available in their area. At the moment, there is scant competition for ADSL in Australia as Telstra sells ADSL service to other Telecommunications companies for one dollar less than it supplies the service to retail customers, thus ensuring no competition. (How can you resell a service at a competitive price if it costs you the same as retail users?).

A quote from OzEmail (another large ISP provider in Australia):

They [Telstra] will not provide a wholesale service to other ISPs at a rate that allows an ISP to compete with them in the market at their existing retail price. Effectively, their retail price to consumers is, say 70 bucks while their wholesale price charged to ISPs is 69 bucks. There's no way we can compete with that.
Rumours say that Telstra put the 3Gb cap on their users only because the ACCC was going to investigate them for anti-competitive behaviour. I think this shows their anti-competitive behaviour continues. Can you spell "Monopoly"?

Can you imagine if this were a bank, for example? If you could not access your money because for the last few months their service was not available? Would you let a bank hide behind a Acceptable Use Policy?

Only Telstra can get away with not providing a service, not compensating any customers, and yet continue to charge for a faulty service.


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Australia's Telstra still cannot get ADSL to work.. | 22 comments (22 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Qwest (3.00 / 3) (#1)
by weirdling on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 07:53:11 PM EST

I still can't get Qwest to put in the DSL service I ordered nearly three months ago, although, so far, they have set the account up no less than five times...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Australian Anti-trust/Competition laws? (4.00 / 5) (#2)
by fatjim on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 08:27:00 PM EST

The article mentions that Telstra was about to be investigated by the "ACCC" for anti-competitive behaviour. What is this ACCC, and why was the investigation dropped by bandwidth caps?

Also, a 3Gb cap is quite obviously not "unlimited"; are there no truth-in-advertising laws in Australia, or consumer's rights groups?

ACCC (4.66 / 3) (#3)
by driptray on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 09:57:04 PM EST

The ACCC is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

They determine such things as whether corporate mergers should be allowed to proceed, and they investigate alleged anti-competitive acts. They've been much in the news recently, and are quite widely regarded (by consumers at least, big corporates hate them), despite (or maybe because of) the chairman Alan Fels extremely dry, slow, dull style.

We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
ACCC and cybersquatting (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by driptray on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 01:24:42 AM EST

And reported in the Sydney Morning Herald today is the news that the ACCC has made a submission to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to prevent cybersquatting.

Australia has a very good record when it comes to preventing cybersquatting and sensibly managing domain names, and it seems the ACCC wants to educate the rest of the world.

We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
download limits (3.00 / 4) (#4)
by Hal9x on Mon Jun 18, 2001 at 10:48:08 PM EST

To be fair I'm not sure that they ever advertised promoting "unlimited downloads". Nowhere in the details of the service do they or did they ever say this. The 3gb limit is however hidden in the "acceptable use" clause.

[ Parent ]
Sorry, no it's not (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by NightRain on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 03:19:42 AM EST

The 3GB limit may now be in the AUP (I'm not ure of this), but it most certinaly was not in the AUP when I or most other people signed their contracts. What there was, was a very vague description basically saying that Telstra reserved the right to boot you if you placed an undue burden on the network. This is most certainly different to placing a hard and fast limit on data transfer.

Telstra have now used their rights to change the AUP to set just such a hard and fast limit. Admittedly, they are letting people out of their existing contracts if they don't agree with the change to the AUP. However, this move means very little when such a large amount of people don't have access to alternative broadband providers, or when they are stuck with providers that buy in wholsesale from Telstra itself. This means that there is no viable alternative for most people that this limit effects.

Don't vote, it only encourages them!

[ Parent ]
I know! (2.00 / 1) (#9)
by Hal9x on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 04:14:13 AM EST

I definetly agree with all you have said as I have telstra cable myself. I feel the same way as you do with regards to them changing the usage policy, and am well aware of the wording used before and now.

I was merely responding to the poster who question whether they ever advertised it as an unlimited service, esecially after the hard limits were introduced. Telstra only ever promoted the virtues of a fast permanent connection, not the amount you could possibly download with it.

[ Parent ]
What would we do without Google caching? :) (4.50 / 2) (#11)
by waulok on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 07:08:45 AM EST

Cable Pricing Before the change: "** MB allowance is unlimited subject to Acceptable Use Policy" New Cable Pricing Now: "**MB allowance means combined upload and download data transfer (except for some traffic provided from time to time by Telstra at no cost)." This is for cable, but the same rules apply. Both cable and adsl had unlimited. Now they do not.

[ Parent ]
unlimited (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by Hal9x on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 07:45:26 AM EST

I see what you mean. What I really meant was that they never had ads saying "use Telstra, we offer unlimited downloads".

Unlimited downloads withing the former AUP was not really unlimited either; We were bitchslapped a few times for the amount we downloaded and had our account threatened.

[ Parent ]
Slightly misleading... (4.33 / 3) (#6)
by willie on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 02:01:02 AM EST

Telstra sucks. You'll get no arguement from me there. But there are a few providers of DSL out there (mostly telcos). Dingoblue is soon going to offer ADSL, the recently failed onetel also offered ADSL (as well as some other flavour of DSL if I remember correctly). Primus is also offering ADSL. (see http://www.ausforum.com/ for a more DSL info & a much bigger list)

So why does the DSL status in Australia suck so much? Because of these unacceptable "Acceptable Use Policy"s. Most providers cost ~$100/month, with downloads limited to 500MB in some cases, and extra downloads at about 20c/MB.

A while ago, the ACCC were going to look into broadband pricing, but I don't remember what happened there. The ACCC are very busy people (the same people who are going to look into DVD zoning in Australia).

A big problem is the cost of international bandwidth. Australia, the island continent really gets screwed here. Those big fat pipes to the US/Asia cost a lot, and most ISP rely on Telsta, Optus or a few of the smaller carriers for their connection. Greedy telcos, and lack of competition is a bad recipe. There was talk a while ago about the other end of the pipe (ie: US) to pay half... but this hasn't really happened (why would you?).

The ACCC is really the only hope here. There are enough people who don't care about the AUP to give Telstra plenty of income from DSL. If you don't like it, Telstra probably don't want you as a customer anyway.

So untill it costs less to put a pipe to the US, or the ACCC have another good look at telsta, we're doomed with expensive internet. (forever)

Re:Slighlty Misleading (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by Libster on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 05:54:09 AM EST

Yes, horrific. The truth is, Telstra is summonsed by the ACCC to explain itself everday for a multitude of reasons. This one is unfortunately low on the food chain. Broadband doesnt have your average Joe's attention the way things like call rates, respopnse times to faults and the length of time it takes for remote locality customers to get a single first phone line installed! There is simply not the same volume of gripes and public outcry surrounding broadband, even though it seems in our world that there is!! There was a petition re: the 3gb capping that I hope you all signed at Whirlpool I also think people should be submitting a complaint form HERE.
Australianus Geekus
[ Parent ]
why it sucks... (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by Hal9x on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 07:39:19 AM EST

You make some good points with regard to the reasons for the high costs of broadband in australia but your conclusion is a bit off the mark. You say that broadband sucks because of the restrictive AUP's. You then explain why international bandwidth is so expensive. To me it seems you failed to draw these two together.To me it seems that Broadband sucks in Australia because international bandwidth is expensive.

You may think that because Optus and Telstra have part or full ownership of these pipes, that the costs for using this bandwidth would not be passed on to their own customers. The simple matter is that they have to recoup the costs of laying the pipe in the first place. I am not apologising for their actions however, I still believe that they are acting in an uncompetitive manner and are treating customers very badly.

On a related issue I find it hard to understand how smaller isps can survive against companies which are backbone providers like Telstra. The smaller isp's are charged something like 19c a megabyte for all data. With the number of AU$25 56K deals around how on earth do they make any money at all? If these smaller companies offered broadband the figures would look even worse. It seems that they are being driven out of the market by the likes of Telstra and optus.

[ Parent ]
Sort of.. (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by waulok on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 08:24:56 AM EST

Afaik most ISPs make a lot of money from dialups in that many users will pay $25 for a monthly account and use it for email a few times a week and some browsing. Then there are those who go on holiday or just dont use it for one reason or another, yet continue to pay for their account.

As for Optus, their policy is to ignore the top and bottom 5% of downloaders, average out the rest and if you go over TEN TIMES THE AVERAGE over a 14 day rolling period, they will jump on you.

Apparently THEY have no problem with people sucking all the bandwidth and leaving them bankrupt. Perhaps Optus has better management than Telstra?

Anyhow, the argument I am making is the fact that the service is DOWN too much and nobody is allowed compensation. Disregarding the other stunts Telstra is pulling for whatever reasons, it still sucks.

[ Parent ]
You're right... (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by willie on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 09:14:38 AM EST

I guess I wasn't direct enough. What I meant to say is that there are a number of problems, all of which stem from the ultimate control Telsta and Optus have over international bandwidth.

All internet access in Australia sucks because international bandwith is expensive, a byproduct of this is that all companies using this bandwidth are forced to create restrictive AUPs limiting the bandwidth.

I agree completely that laying pipes cost money, which is why I stated that we'll be paying through the arse until the price of those pipes becomes cheaper (or the people on the other end pay their half).

[ Parent ]
Give it time... (none / 0) (#20)
by vastor on Sun Jun 24, 2001 at 06:35:24 PM EST

I think the best figure for international traffic I've seen bandied about was about 5.5c/mb and that was for reasonably large volumes. That makes for $55/gig, so if a DSL provider has to give Telstra $69, but are charging $100 for the service, then 500mb is probably all they can really include.

Even if they were wireless, they aren't going to be giving away huge amounts of data unless they have a fat satellite link to the US, which is going to make for higher latency (and possibly even higher prices, but you can get flat rate satellite which would be beneficial).

20c is about normal for per mb bought data, just look at bigpond direct (which is available over DSL now too).

Increased volumes will eventually lead to pushed down prices, if only because as the market grows it'll become more viable for extra competition. Project Oxygen is due to link to australia in 2004 or something (may have been brought forward since I last visited their site), odds are it'll treat us no differently than any other country on its network.

Telstra just does price gouging as long as it can get away with it. They did it with phone calls, now they're doing it with internet data. When there is decent competition then they'll drop their prices to match the slightly higher end of it.

Singtel could make things interesting if they do take over Optus here (I've not been following it). I used to host the POP of an ISP with a 2mbit link through Singtel. They were apparently cheap, but their international links became rather congested during peak times, hopefully they wouldn't run the optus service into the ground if they do take it over.

I'm not sure I could see the US paying 50% for links anyway, since odds are we pull far more traffic from them than they get from us - so if thats the case it'd only be fair for them to pay a proportional amount (though even thats probably unlikely to ever occur in reality).

[ Parent ]
Outage Today (2.00 / 1) (#7)
by Tachys on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 02:36:25 AM EST

Many BigPond ADSL didn't work for 4 hours today.

Changing AUP is not legal? (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by driptray on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 07:26:19 PM EST

Telstra quotes their "Acceptable Use Policy" (which contains clauses letting them change the AUP whenever they want to) daily in the news as they have problem after problem.

IANAL, but I have an Australian law degree, and this smells fishy.

The AUP is part of the contract between Telstra and the customer. Contractual terms cannot be changed after the contract has begun. I don't think you can even have a "agree to change them later" clause, because that would simply be a whole new contract.

Have any lawyers had a good look at this? If Telstra is breaching the contract by changing the AUP, then they could be liable for damages.

We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
They changed the AUP not the contract. (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by supine on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:48:22 AM EST

Note they didn't change the contract. The contract states that use is restricted by the AUP, but the AUP is a seperate document which they have the right to modify if they supply 14 days notice.


"No GUI for you! Use lynx!!!, Come back, One year!" -- /avant
[ Parent ]
AUP may be part of the contract (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by driptray on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:55:06 PM EST

...the AUP is a seperate document...

That doesn't mean that it isn't part of the contract. A contract can be spread over a number of documents, and can include terms not in any document, as well as implied terms.

Considering that the AUP sets out the conditions under which you use the service, I'd say that it certainly is part of the contract. AFAIK, a contract cannot have a term stating that the terms may be changed at some later point during the life of the contract. That's what the "right to modify if they supply 14 days notice" bit seems to be. I don't think it would stand up, but I welcome somebody with a bit more legal experience to step in here.

We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
Should be legal (none / 0) (#21)
by cthugha on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 08:59:38 AM EST

It probably is legal to include these kind of clauses in contracts. Remember that one of the fundamental principles of the common law of contract is that parties are completely free to make the terms of their bargain (a principle that can and is overridden by statute for policy reasons in specific cases, e.g. the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) for contracts involving the sale of goods). If the parties to an agreement wish to modify the terms over the lifetime of the agreement, why shouldn't they be allowed to do that?

Consider the following situation: A supplier agrees to supply a consumer with goods over a period of five years (a relatively common commercial arrangement). Market reality is that the supplier will have to deal with changing circumstances (changes in price and availability of raw materials, general market demand for the product, etc). Why shouldn't the supplier be allowed to include a term in the contract with the consumer to be able to vary the price of the goods in accordance with such changes in circumstances?

In short, I see no reason why this shouldn't be legal, but I am not an expert in consumer protection law, so there may be a statute protecting Telstra customers in this instance.

[ Parent ]
Changes have been approved by TIO and ACCC (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by Toojays on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:47:31 PM EST

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman put out this notice last week. It basically says that since Telstra haven't breached their terms and conditions, the situation has nothing to do with the TIO.

The same notice also states that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission actually prefer the new AUP (with the 3GB cap) because it is less ambiguous than the old one, which had a clause allowing the contract to be broken if the customer caused too much congestion of Telstra's network.

Most people missed the point of this article... (none / 0) (#22)
by waulok on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 08:45:30 PM EST

Telstra's Broadband service works some of the time and when it is down for days, nobody (not even businesses) can get a refund or a discount for loss of service (unless the business can PROVE they lost income). Telstra may have done the same with phones. But how long would they last if their telephone system was down 2-3 whole days each month? "Sorry, your phonecall could not be made as our computer cannot connect your telephone to another telephone on our network or any other network in the world. No, you will not receive any discounts or rebates for this as our AUP says we dont guarantee your calls will be connected at any time. We will, however, charge you $80 per month for having a telephone at your home, even if you cannot use it" How would THAT go?

Australia's Telstra still cannot get ADSL to work.. | 22 comments (22 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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