Broadband and the Digital Divide in Australia
January 30th, 2008
So.. I’m currently moving house - It’s been on the cards for a while but I put it off pending a reply from a company I had been hoping to snare my ‘dream job’ with. The reply came, and it looks like I’ll be continuing my current status as a self-employed consultant/ PhD student for a while yet (dawgammit) , so it makes sense to make the move now.
I’ve found a fantastic place about 25kms out of Brisbane, at a spot called Mount Nebo (quite near to where my parents live, actually). The rent is good, the view is FANTASTIC and it’s a rural area, so I’ll be able to get back to my roots and have a few chooks etc
One big problem - if you can believe it - here in Australia, only 25kms out of a major city I cannot get broadband internet. To understand why this is, consider that the telecommunications utility (Telstra, often perhaps aptly renamed Hellstra) in this country was until recently Government owned, and is now a publicly owned company - so now the mighty dollar rules the roost.
It strikes me as a bit odd that the government would privatise a company that provides a service every bit as important as other utilities like water, electricity etc, without imposing conditions - like, for instance, the need to provide that service to folks where the population density might not quite make it a rapid return on investment - that is, after all, the reason that we have government owned utilities in the first place.
Actually, these days broadband internet is probably a more important utility than water and electricity - if you’ve got no water, you can always collect it from your roof. If you’ve got no electricity, you can always probably pay for solar panels. If you’ve got no broadband - well, sorry mate - you’ve just got no broadband. Hard luck.
This has resulted in the issue becoming a hot political potato. In fact, one of the major election promises of the incoming Rudd Labor government was that they would ensure that the entire population of Australia would have 8Mbp/s internet connections within several years if they were elected.
To this, the current American CEO of Telstra, Sol Trujillo, rejected the Rudd Labor Government’s idea of Telstra and its competitors all forming a jointly owned ‘new’ broadband network (probably FTTN - fibre to the node) as being some form of ‘kumbaya, holding hands theory - we are only going to participate in things we own and control’.
I must admit I can see his logic - CEO’s are paid the big bucks to maximise shareholder value. Opening up your monopoly owned exchanges and infrastructure to competitors for ‘the common good’ doesn’t cut it in this modern world of capitalism.
On the other hand, Telstra also blissfully enjoys their monopoly.. they argue I can get broadband - their wireless (3G) offering - Next-G. Yep, it’s fantastic - a whopping top speed in the area of 512Kbps, and only the low low price of $US150 per month for a maximum of 3GB download capacity.
I can use 3GB in my sleep - just 10kms down the road I can get 50GB a month for $50 at 5Mbps… so.. broadband at 100 times the market rate and 10% of the market speed is really only for those that have too much money or too few brain cells.. so. no broadband for me - I’ll have to buy a carrier pidgeon instead.
Alternatively.. well I am a comms engineer so.. I have the technology. I might just see if I can’t find someone with ADSL broadband in the valley below and offer to pay their monthly fees if I can rig up a yagi from their property and longshot the internet over an 802.11g/n link. It might be not strictly legal, but avoiding not-strictly-legal conduct is probably the reason that they never privatised the police force as well…
Entry Filed under: General Discussion