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.


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