Ask LH: Why Aren’t There Any Decent Broadband Options Where I Live?

Ask LH: Why Aren’t There Any Decent Broadband Options Where I Live?

Hey Lifehacker, I just moved house to an area which has no ports left in the nearest exchange, and there’s a lengthy queue of people to sign up. I have spoken to multiple ISPs and they all say the same thing. I have looked into other methods of getting internet (4G, satellite and cable) but they’re either unavailable or way too expensive. Are there any alternatives which won’t break my bank? Thanks, Bereft of Broadband

Cable hand picture from Shutterstock

Dear BoB,

Welcome to Australia in 2014. Your experience neatly sums up why the idea that our existing copper network is adequate to serve the nation is, frankly, delusional. Tools such as MyBroadband look at whether a service might be available near where you live; not whether you can actually sign up. As many Australians living in populous capital city areas have learned, often there’s no choice.

Why are we stuck in this position? Largely because when Telstra was privatised, there wasn’t any structural separation between its wholesale and commercial arms. That meant that even if rival ISPs wanted to set up their own DSLAMs in Telstra-controlled exchanges, they were frequently told there was no room. In effect, there’s no competition and no ability to add new services.

Once the National Broadband Network (NBN) became a prospect, few ISPs wanted to invest in new exchange equipment anyway. Now that the NBN’s future is far from certain and has no timeline, there might be an incentive to upgrade exchanges — but there still won’t be room in many cases.

Unfortunately, we have no words of solace to offer you. Using mobile broadband is possible but extremely expensive. Cable connectivity is a lottery based on your address, and satellites are overcrowded and pricey. There’s no easy way out, other than moving (and hoping you’re not screwed in exactly the same way again).

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Depressing – it’s the only way to describe the current state of internet infrastructure in Australia and unfortunately with the current government’s plans completely useless there will be no change anytime soon.

    I’d suggest contacting your local MP and advising them you won’t vote for a party that isn’t doing something about this.

    • Seems that the 38 billion for NBN is already locked in:

      SPENDING commitments of up to $38 billion on the National Broadband Network were locked in under Labor and the “overwhelming majority” must now be met to complete it, the Coalition has warned ahead of an overhaul of the project in the bush.

      The Australian can reveal that a landmark review finds hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in rural and regional areas could miss out on super-fast broadband because NBN Co badly underestimated demand, although the review rules out costly plans to build and launch a third satellite to serve them….

      Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused Labor of locking in $34bn-$38bn of spending commitments on the NBN between 2011 and 2021 — before a “single cent” is spent upgrading the fixed-line network that will serve the other 93 per cent of Australia.

  • We’ve had the same issue for a long time, eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Telstra’s wireless broadband is hideously expensive and they refuse to offer any other solution.
    Fortunately, Optus has recently offered cable internet. Still in the early days but seems to be ok so far, no service outages that I have witnessed.

    • Telstra’s 3G is horrible for home users. They need to offer some sort of fixed wireless in areas with no ports or too far out for ADSL. Otherwise, satellite is the only alternative, and for latency dependent activities, like online gaming, is useless

      Sorry, just fed up on being stuck on the horrible 3G service

      And the comments here are even more broken than PC Gamer still

  • look at vivid wireless $80 a month for unlimited 4g – I’m in Richmond and while it’s not the most consistent and they throttle some usage it’s the tallest midget out there at the moment

    • Uh huh…. Cause all of this has happened in the last 12 months…. In fact, consecutive governments of every flavour have failed to adequately address the problem….

      • Actually no… The Telstra monopoly issue that crippled our broadband for almost 2 decades now popped up under Howard and then when Labour was voted in they started working on the NBN which would have solved that problem by moving away from Telstra’s copper. Now we’re back with the Liberals and they’ve gutted the NBN so we’re stuck with the same old problems for a lot longer.

        Regardless of which side of politics you support overall, there really is one clear group at fault for our broadband being subpar.

  • This could be sorted quickly if underground channels, shafts, hatches etc were nationalized.
    Private Telstra should’ve ever only owned cables inside, not the cable channels. Cable channels should be shared among all telcos to provide whatever services they like. There would not be need for another government monopoly that would eventually be privatized again! Free competition is not possible now because Telstra owns cable channels and will not allow competition access at a price undermining their own offerings.

  • My brother has been reduced to using 3g because he can’t get anything else, and he hates it. The speed he can live with but, it isn’t a constant connection and that’s what he wants. When playing games he gets 150 ping minimum.

  • Get friendly with a neighbor who already has a connection and set up a Wireless Bridge to their network. Bump up their download limit and split the access costs 50:50 or by whatever your download split might be.
    I’ve done this and it worked OK.
    Requires that both of you be responsible with the connection (ie queue up downloads overnight).

    Fixed Wireless (ie WIMAX) could be an option worth investigating.

  • Seems funny 10-15 years ago it way all the rage to put up tall antenna poles and get line of site high gain directional antenna to join a grid and get onto the web. Seems like this is the only option again. You can get up to 5km with a good antenna setup.

  • This may be obvious, but of all the telco’s you have tried, have you tried signing up with Telstra?

    I had this issue a few years ago with no ports with TPG or Internode available. Ended up getting broadband through telstra and Churning across to my provider of choice…

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