Ask LH: What Can I Do When There Are No ADSL Ports Available?

Ask LH: What Can I Do When There Are No ADSL Ports Available?

Hi Lifehacker, I’ve recently moved to a town in Queensland that has no available ports for ADSL in the nearest exchange. I’m paying too much for a Wi-Fi hotspot and am scared of using it as I’m charged for every MB over my miniscule data allowance. What other options are there? How long might I have to wait? Thanks, SadSL

Network picture from Shutterstock

Dear SadSL,

Whenever someone tries to argue that the current copper network is fine and we don’t need some sort of NBN-style upgrades, I can only assume they’ve never actually lived in an area where there are no more ADSL ports available in the nearest exchange. This is a sadly common phenomena, and it isn’t restricted to rural areas; many capital city residents have exactly the same problem.

Often this problem arises because there is physically no more room available in the local exchange. Sometimes it happens because there haven’t been sufficient people applying in an area to convince Telstra (which controls the majority of exchanges) or its rivals (who can lease space in uncrowded exchanges) that it’s worth the expense of adding extra equipment. Regardless, it’s a major nuisance.

You can find out how many ADSL ports are currently enabled in your area via this Telstra site, including any planned future upgrades. The lack of certainty over what will happen with the NBN acts as a disincentive for companies to invest further in ADSL right now, so changes in the near future are unlikely. However, it’s worth checking to see if your exchange is due for an upgrade, so you can apply again as soon as that happens.

As you’ve discovered, using 4G is very expensive by comparison. However, as a consumer, it’s the only other option you have. (Satellite is the third possibility, but that’s often more expensive and capacity on more affordable NBN satellites in areas where it’s available has been exhausted.)

So what can you do? Our advice is to continue applying for services regularly — there’s no waiting list option we’re aware of, so you just have to keep plugging. One suggestion: if you’ve been applying through companies that resell access to the Telstra network, try applying through Telstra directly. We’ve heard enough unpleasant accounts of people being told nothing is available through a reseller but then gaining access when going through Telstra itself to make it worth trying. If readers have other advice, we’d love to hear it in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Get friendly with a neighbor and chip in extra (to bump up a higher quota tier and offset the reduced bandwidth) so you can piggy back off their WiFi.
    Strictly speaking, it’s not allowable under the ISP terms and Conditions, but they have no way of detecting.

    • Of course they do. It’s just a matter of whether there’s reason enough to pull you up on it.

      Also there’s that little thing of being responsible for the usage of your account. Do you really trust your neighbour that much to not look at questionable content when you’re the one who’ll be liable for their actions?

      • > Of course they do. It’s just a matter of whether there’s reason enough to pull you up on it.

        No they can’t. The ISP delivers the connection to your house, up to the modem. Anything past the modem is out of the ISP’s visibility.

        • Traffic originating from your network traverses theirs. Everything is visible because they are your carriage service.

          • Sure. And if they perform some packet inspection, they might be able to figure out that there are multiple devices on the network.

            But there’s a big leap from ‘multiple devices on the network’ to ‘sharing internet with your neighbour’. Your traffic will look exactly the same as a couple who have a kid or two.

          • So when your router is broadcasting 1 ip, how do they tell how many devices are connected let along one if them is in a neighbouring house?

  • My place had the same problem… My solution was that I moved.

    That said, my family who still lives there had better luck with an Optus cable connection.

  • I was too far from the exchange to get ADSL2. Applying through Telstra though they moved my port to a closer exchange, which was JUST close enough to get the worlds slowest ADSL 2 :p.

    Better than nothing. Learnt my lesson, and when I moved, I moved directly across the road from an exchange haha. Even worked out alright now, while nearly all NBN expansion in Canberra has been shit-canned by Tones, my street is still getting it because it’s the street the exchange is on.

  • I ended up waiting a year for an ADSL2+ port. This is in suburban Syd with Telstra. Only option is to call providers every week.

    • I had the same issue when I was put on an ADSL1Max connection because there were no ADSL2 ports at the exchange. I just monitored the Telstra Excel file since my ISP uses Telstra hardware and when it stated there was a port free I rang my ISP and requested an update. About a week after first contacting them I was informed to reboot my modem and “BAM” ADSL2. My download speed nearly doubled but more importantly my upload speed basically tripled. So if your sync speed is ADSL1Max and there are ADSL2 ports at your exchange then a simple phone call is the ultimate “lifehack”. If your ISP isn’t as accepting as mine then just mention you’ll go to an ISP who can give you ADSL2.

    • I’d almost consider every day. The funny thing is, so many mobile providers are tossing out plans that make your voice calls practically free, so there’s no real reason not to run the gauntlet, and daily will probably be enough that Telstra reps will actually get to know you.

      I say ‘almost’ though, because even though it costs Telstra a hell of a lot more to handle your call than it does for you to make it, and the reps might learn your name, it doesn’t actually mean that anyone will be able to do anything about it. Just that you’ll get in on that ONE day that there’s a slot. Unless it’s taken by someone who knows a tech who managed to reserve it for them. (Does happen.)

      Maybe you’ll get lucky and get black-listed by Telstra’s call centres for being a nuisance, at which point you can log a complaint with the TIO about getting blacklisted for pursuing your only valid means of enquiry, costing Telstra tens of thousands… *shrug*

      There is really no solution to ‘no ports available’ except to move. You’re really up shit creek in those instances.

  • Call up Today Tonight and complain, explain how you wanted to run your own business and employ tons of people but can’t because the evil telstra empire is screwing you over. Or pay a shit-ton of money and get foxtel Cable if it’s available., or register an ABN and drop $4000+ on a fibre run and pay another $800-1300/month for a service on it. Those are really your only options outside of 4G/exchange upgrade.

  • I had the same issue when I moved into my new house. Used Optus’s $2/days for my internet (back when it was 3g and unlimited per day) until I could get ADSL (about a year later). Managed to set it up so that I could send the 3g internet through a router and be sent throughout the house, but definitely not ideal

  • Ok no Telstra can’t just “put you to the front of the queue”… There’s this little thing called the ssu which makes that highly illegal.

    Best bet is (with telstra, unsure of other providers) order it anyway and your order will just go into held order status until it’s” your turn”. In the meantime if you sign up for wireless broadband contracts and also becomes available you can normally get out of the contract (get a ref number for this though)
    Not a rep but seriously guys if you’re going to report on this stuff you should be responsible enough to get this basic stuff right.

  • I had this issue when moving into my current apartment. I read on some forum that different ISP’s have different allocations of ports. After all big ISP’s told me it would be impossible for me to get ADSL, I spoke to Dodo and they told me it was fine. I was sceptical but they got me hooked up fine. I guess not many people were on Dodo in my area? Someone correct me if this isn’t how it works…

    • Just going throught this shit at the moment. What are dodo speeds like? Seems like a massive scam they are so eager to sign me up when no other telco or privite contracter will touch it. Dodo wants to charge me $300 to connect seems like a scam idk

      • Dodo were fine, speeds were good, reliable connection. Checkout the Whirlpool forums for feedback, seems mostly positive. I think I found a Level 2 or 3 support contact on there who helped with more information with getting connected. I think they waived or reduced some of the connection fee if I signed up for a longer term… can’t quite remember.

  • I have heard of businesses paying for their own DSLAM at the exchange. This is about $12K but several people and buisinesses can use it and may contribute.

  • I have no broadband. I pay through the arse for 4G.
    There is one course of action to take while waiting for the NBN to come:

    1. Lie down
    2. Try not to cry
    3. Cry a lot

  • A friend who’s been waiting for ADSL for over a year in one of the Wollongong northern beach suburbs says everyone watches for moving vans and calls to apply. You cant be waitlisted and there are no upgrade plans for the exchange.

  • Consider Wi Max or simply wireless dsl services. I use it at home get an average of 30mbits down and 20 up. It’s cheap and only requires a dish on your roof. Pings are less than 20 for aus servers too. I think I pay $69 a month for 300gb with a company called nuskope. The area obviously has to be covered by a WDSL provider. Most black spots are.

  • I am in the exact same situation made worse by one telco saying they could connect us only for a week later say no sorry without an explanation.

    Cannot connect through Telstra as they have put us on a black list (despite it being their own fault) so we are reliant on others, looking at that website you linked with available ports we have a few left in ours but most likely have to go through Telstra to get them.

  • I had this problem when moving houses, we were on a waiting list for about 8 months until we moved.
    We were told by a few companies that there was a port available for us to use and that we’d be connected within the week, only to have them all turn around and say that they can’t do it.
    It’s infuriating and really expensive to use mobile 3G as your only source of delicious interwebs

  • Depending on what you’re willing to pay, and how necessary you deem an internet service, there are potentially other small business providers Electrical communication specialists who could provide you with a cheap unlicenced microwave link depending on the topography of course.
    Also, you could engage in such an activity yourself if you had friends within LOS and get the gear to create your own small scale link. Not all carriers has clauses that strictly prohibit the sharing of an internet connection, or limiting it to one household.

  • You could try Ethernet over Copper(EoC) with AAPT they are going for $280 per month for 100GB.

  • Follow the link that LH provided you and download the Available ADSL Capacity – Exchanges it’s being update by Telstra weekly. You can go to yourbroadband dot com dot au to check your exchange name. Once you have it you can check your exchange under the SITE_NAME then you can check the available ports for 20mbps, 8mbps and if there will be an additional port. The excel file has a complete list of suburbs and exchanges.

  • Just been through this exact scenario. I’m paying $600-800 a month, $190 for the WIFI service (1-2 bars of 3G on a clear day), data allowance runs out less than halfway through the cycle (I work from home) – balance all from having to run the business through iPhone personal hotspot.

    Wrote to the Ombudsman – got a call from Telstra explaining how they couldn’t help.

    Wrote to local MP – got a reply within an hour, and a call from Telstra Countywide that day.

    Fast forward 2 months – a Telstra Business manager actually came to my home yesterday to put through an order for ADSL and cancel all my other accounts.

    I got lucky. My local exchange was upgraded in December. I don’t have a port yet but I’m 80% there and they promise me it will be in place by 27 January.

    Frankly if it isn’t I have to move house at great expense, having only been here 14 months, because without being able to effectively run my business, I have been slowly getting further and further behind on bills, notably my mortgage which isn’t small.

    With hindsight, if I had known how bad connection was here, I would not have purchased this house.

    Write to the Ombudsman, write to your local MP, find your local Telstra Countrywide office and go there. If they are not already planning to upgrade your exchange push hard for it.

    Wishing you luck!


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