Internet black holes blamed on Telstra
No ADSL: Peter Lambert at home in Edgeworth in Newcastle. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
As you debate the merits of the super-fast national broadband network, spare a thought for the thousands of Australians who can't even get home broadband.
Tanya Levin, 41, moved to Thirroul, north of Wollongong in NSW, but was told there were not enough ports for everyone to have broadband and she would have to wait until someone moved out before she could get ADSL. The NBN won't arrive there for at least another year.
"This is insane. I live in a suburb that has multi-million dollar houses, but we're playing musical chairs for ports?," Levin told Fairfax.
Out of the picture: Kristoffer Paulsen. Photo: Joseph Feil
"I have to wait for someone to die or move before I can get broadband? I'm embarrassed on an international level for all of us."
Others, like Ian Cox, in Newcastle's western suburbs, are told they are unable to get wired broadband because they live too far away from the exchange.
Peter Lambert lives in Edgeworth in Newcastle and has previously lived nearby in Warners Bay and Elermore Vale and in none of those places could he get ADSL. He is forced to use a slow, expensive and unreliable wireless service with NBN upgrades not coming for the foreseeable future.
Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said the issue was a "Telstra problem" because the company refused to upgrade certain exchanges (which other telcos can't control).
He said the issue was more pronounced in the outer suburbs around all of our major cities and regional growth centres which are battling to make do with creaking broadband infrastructure. Politicians had not put enough pressure on Telstra to resolve the issue.
"While the problem is geographically widespread in all you talk about tens of thousands of people – perhaps a few hundred thousands – but not millions and not concentrated in one area therefore this problem is going on quite unnoticed and that makes it even more difficult for those people involved to put pressure on Telstra," said Budde.
Melbourne photographer Kristoffer Paulsen, 30, moved from Carlton North to Brunswick East after being unable to get ADSL at his house with the only option being an expensive Telstra high-end cable package on a two-year contract. He instead used his iPhone and iPad data packs.
"Working as a photographer without internet at home was super challenging," he said. "Having to sometimes upload massive files took some planning."
Elise Davidson of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network said it was a "long-standing issue". "Ultimately the best solution for all consumers is for Telstra to stop having the power to deny people an essential service, and that is one of the most important reasons for building an NBN."
Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said the "slow" rollout of the NBN created a disincentive for other telcos to invest in their infrastructure because of uncertainty as to whether they will be able to get a return.
The Coalition would deliver upgrades to underserved areas as a priority.
"Labor have gone about this in the slowest and most expensive way possible – meaning that some houses in underserved areas may be waiting up to 10 years for their upgrade," he said.
NBN Co said it appreciated there was a significant need for improved broadband in many areas of Australia and it was working "as quickly and efficiently as we can" to build the NBN.
Telstra said it continued to upgrade infrastructure around the country but had to prioritise areas "and that comes down to traffic volumes". In reference to Levin it said that the Thirroul exchange has capacity, but the street-side cabinets did not and "we can't physically fit more ports in them".
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Simon Cohen said that unlike a standard telephone service an internet service was not regarded as an essential service by law and the TIO "therefore has a limited role in dealing with matters where a consumer complains that there is no internet access in their location".
Nonetheless TIO said it received about 200 complaints a quarter about ADSL not being available in a consumer's area.
"Decisions about the placement and type of network infrastructure are the service provider's business decisions, and not matters where the TIO is permitted to direct the service provider," said Cohen.