To begin, I'll just lay down a general backstory of the companies and services involved so those not living down under can grasp the situation.
Back in 1995, a company known as Foxtel was established - a joint operation between FOX Entertainment, and the Telstra Communications Company, to provide a Pay Television service to the public. As part of this agreement, Foxtel/Telstra were to rollout the biggest project since Telstra's original copper phone line development - Australia's first cable network. Billions of dollars and several years landed our favourite Telco a network that covered 93% of the population. Quite a feat for such a broad country such as this great brown land. Foxtel then began operation in 1995 after its completion and all was well.
Around this same time Telstra began developing other uses for this gigantic cable infrastructure that had cost them quite a packet, and investigated cable internet technology to provide a broadband service to customers able to be connected to the said network. Tests were run, trials were made, and eventually Telstra rolled out Bigpond Advance Cable - the first of its many Broadband options. Providing unlimited usage in both bandwidth usage and speed, it was the perfect solution to those who could afford it at the time. Meanwhile, Australia's second largest Telco, Optus, was developing a simular (but smaller) rollout of its own cable infrastructure, to run both a PayTV service (OptusVision) and Cable Internet Service (Optus@Home - A licensed version of the American @home cable service).
By the end of 1997 both Optus and Telstra were growing their respective customer bases, both providing unlimited services to generally satisfied customers. It was around this time and into 1998 when the differences of quality in service and other factors began to appear.
* Since Optus was using the @Home equipment, manuals and setup - it had both an established link and portal with Excite, a reliable and established network (DOCSIS), and @home trained engineers and techs. This provided customers with a service that was well recieved.
* Telstra had decided to develop their own network completely - using their own techs, technology and a network based on a non-standard Motorola system. Customers would complain of random cutouts, much downtime and unsatisfactory helpdesk support. (NB: They eventually migrated the majority of their users over to a new DOCSIS network)
Either way, customers with either service were generally satisfied with their broadband experience. It wasn't till 2000 when Telstra introduced a download cap onto its heavy user "Freedom Deluxe" plan of 512kbps - which, as you may guess, was not accepted favourably. Usage was kept unlimited, but not for long.
Over the next few years, Telstra raised prices, induced a 3 Gigabyte cap (per month) onto the freedom deluxe service. It then continued to restructure all other plans to smaller usage amounts, raise the price yet again, but did (as of March this year) uncap the download speed, but by then the price was over $90 Australian ($45 US) for a substandard service in many regards. The same treatment has been placed on Telstra's ADSL service - the only differences being ADSL's higher price tag. Its also interesting to note here, that Telstra own the only wholesale market for ADSL service in Australia. All of their compeditors buy through them at prices barely lower then Telstra's retail residential pricing.
Optus, though, grew a fantastic name for itself during Telstra's drastic race for cost cutting, by regulating usage using a NetStat system, which provided a fair way to prevent "leeching" from its service. The NetStat was a number generated daily based on the downloads (uploads are not counted on Optus) of the user over a rolling 14-day period. To put it simply - an O@H user could download 10 times the daily average per day, which averaged around 60-70mb (600mb/day). You weren't restricted, but to keep your NetStat below the cutoff of 10, keeping to 19/20 Gigabytes a month and keeping a simular average of use per day is perfect. The price stayed the same, installation costs dropped, and they renamed themselves to OptusNet Cable Internet, after the recent collapse of the @home corporation. Optus Cable is currently noted as the best Broadband service in Australia. Unfortunately, Optus's rollout was only restricted to 3 cities, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, after funding depleted.
And so the turmoil begins. With costs so high for a substandard service such as Telstra's, both with ADSL and Cable, many users do not have a choice but to stick with their capped plans. Their ADSL competitors (numerous as they are) can only offer simularily priced plans, due to Telstra's monopoly over copper line and exchange ownership. To turn a profit, and earn customers, they must provide an edge their service, which can be difficult when Telstra gives no sympathy to its wholesale pricing.
Over the last 2 years, Bigpond users have had to deal with:
- Numerous mail server problems
- Login and authenication problems
- Lengthy Nation wide service outages
- Below standard (and occasionally abusive) customer support
- A 3GB cap with incredibly high extra mb charges
- Billing errors based on incorrect usage rate collection
- Bills appearing up to three months late
- Deletion of customer websites
- Failure to pay promised compensation
- 2 Major price increases
Optus does not currently provide ADSL services, and its rollout was small, and scattered. It provides a fantastic service, but only to those lucky enough to live in the varied "patches" of cabled area in the 3 cities. Optus also refuses to cable Unit and Apartment blocks, leaving suitable customers those living in houses. It has been known, among the diehard, to move house to GET Optus Cable, the BB situation being that desperate.
So, as you can see - the story of Australian Broadband is getting worse a lot faster then it is becoming improved. With more supposed price hikes on the way from Telstra, a promising ADSL provider known as XiS having major troubles getting on its feet, and the unfortunately flawed Optus rollout, its looking very grim for Australian internet users. Especially from what was once a top 10 broadband contender in the world, is now barely in the top 20.
So while you download that Linux ISO over that T1 dedicated pipe without a care in the world - spare a thought for us little guys down under.