Are you ready for Australia's spring rain broadband blues? It's been a dry winter, but the spring downpours are set to trigger the seasonal ADSL slowdown as Telstra's pits flood – drowning the country's ageing copper network. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot home users can do about it.
Australia's hotch potch broadband infrastructure presents plenty of challenges, but few are more predictable and infuriating than watching your DSL connection grind to a halt after heavy rain.
It's a common story across the country as the copper lines have fallen into disrepair, sometimes patched up with plastic bags in a vain attempt to keep the water out of cables and joints. In other areas, gel casings designed to protect the copper have actually made the problem worse.
As a result, some Australians are left with unreliable broadband for days at a time after heavy rain floods a telephone pit somewhere between their home and the nearest exchange. Complaints tend to fall on deaf ears, as the problem typically sorts itself out after a few days and it's brutally clear that no-one in this country cares if your home is cut off for a while.
Eight years into the Australian government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) project, the nation has an average internet speed – 50th in the global rankings – that lags well behind many advanced economy countries. Ongoing secrecy around the NBN, a project that’s likely to cost more than A$50 billion, makes it impossible for the public in most cases to know when and what quality service they will receive. Further, new research shows the NBN rollout was politically motivated and socioeconomically biased from the beginning.
It is perhaps time to remind ourselves of the ups and downs of the project that was once announced as a dream national infrastructure project for the 21st century. This requires a ten-year journey back in time, before we can figure out what needs to be done next.
The situation might improve when the NBN reaches your door, but that's little consolation this coming spring when around half of the country still relies on ADSL1 or 2+ copper connections.
Of course the lion's share of NBN connections will be Fibre to the Node, which still relies on the old copper phone lines to cover the last few hundred metres to reach your home. If you're in this boat and a fault in your copper line is close to your house then upgrading to the NBN might not cure your heavy rain woes.
On a good day you'll likely get faster speeds than on ADSL1/2+, due to the shorter copper line, but come the rains you might be right back where you started. Remember there's no end user speed guarantee on the NBN, so don't expect any action if you're only getting half the speed of your neighbours and your line is less reliable.
Take up your complaint with NBN and you'll be told to contact your internet retailer, which in turn will point the finger at NBN in yet another round of the great Australian broadband blame game.
Unless you have faith in NBN Co to repair every telephone pit in the Fibre to the Node footprint, Australia's spring rain broadband blues look set to continue for many years yet.
How does DSL cope in your area when the rains come?