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Telstra’s Broadband Disgrace

knoobs 18 January 2008 71

In an era where fast broadband Internet is becoming widely accessible across not only OECD nations but also the developing world, the dismal state of Telstra’s ADSL broadband service right here in Canberra has become infuriatingly apparent through my experience with them in the past few weeks.

Having finished construction of our new home in the new suburb of Wells Station, Harrison, Telstra assured us that our Bigpond broadband connection would continue in our new home as the local, Crace exchange was ADSL enabled and connection ports were readily available. Telstra even delivered a package containing the necessary hardware. Yet only days later we received a text message rather severely stating that our application had been “rejected” – as though Telstra felt it needed to pass a judgement on my character.  They didn’t bother to provide any further explanation.

The government, as well as Telstra, have touted the expansion of broadband countrywide yet when broadband isn’t even available in the developing suburbs of the nation’s capital, what hope is there for those in regional areas.

When we inquired further about our connection, Telstra customer service cheerily informed us that broadband was, in fact, available and that we would be connected shortly. Once again, days later, we were notified that this application was also “rejected”. Five times we have been subjected to this pretence. Talking to neighbours and others living in Gungahlin it became clear we were not the only victims of Telstra’s arrogant charades. We have tried several times to contact Telstra Countrywide (and Ian Peters, the Area General Manager) – the man whose image and number is plastered on every Telstra van roaming Canberra – and not a single call has yet been answered.

The worst part is that we have no choice – TransAct does not provide any services here and all other Internet providers have to go through Telstra’s exchange. Telstra’s monopoly of broadband is turning Australia into an Internet backwater, stifling innovation and trade. I sincerely believe it is the greatest obstacle facing Australia’s development in this modern, technology dependent era. Telstra, if you can’t even provide the most basic of services, get out of the way and let others do so.

Is anyone else having issues with getting broadband in Canberra and in the same situation? Is it an issue limited to us Neanderthals living on the north side?  

Maybe if we can raise awareness of this issue, we can get Telstra to actually do something about this. I know, I know…but it’s worth a try.


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71 Responses to Telstra’s Broadband Disgrace
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Shtoive Shtoive 3:30 pm 23 Jul 08

No no, its still not connected.
I wrote a letter to both Federal (McMullan) and Local (Some new kid) and I received confirmation responses and that is about it.
I was questioning why is Gungahlin unable to receive ADSL2, and who is responsible for establishing it.

Turns out as I dig this hole deeper, no one is.
Seriously, we are better off running fibre ourselves.

What a disgrace.
This service should be treated the same as Gas, Electricity, and Phones – Like most other developed western nations.
I would be furious if I payed this ridicules sum of money for a house in Gungahlin to find that this basic service can’t even be supplied, yet alone trying to establish a well structured IT business/company/government department.
“Nations Capital” – pfft, most country towns have better services.

Mælinar Mælinar 4:48 pm 08 Feb 08

I was interested to hear that now Labour is in, Telstra magically found the switch to allow 900 ADSL2+ networks across the country.

Funny, magic switches, and all that.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 4:46 pm 08 Feb 08

Actual working link:
The Hon Bruce Billson

Mr Evil Mr Evil 4:45 pm 08 Feb 08

“It’s McMullan, what do you expect?

……..Come on, someone voted for him, why?”

Because he looks like the little bald man off Benny Hill?

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 4:39 pm 08 Feb 08

Encouraging the new Govt to act like a Govt rather than gloating triumphal victor, and the new Oppositions to stop acting like policy spokesmen would be nice, ans should be a national sport.

(Be sure to include any supporting documentation or responses from now-sitting government members, and highlight them or draw attention to them in writing, so your chosen recipient has to do as little prep as possible before playing Parliamentary Name and Shame 2008).

caf caf 4:35 pm 08 Feb 08

What response did you expect? “Bob has picked up the shovel and roll of fibre optic and will be around to your place directly” ??

B. Thompson, you have it wrong about the ADSL2+ situation. Previously, Telstra only chose to installed ADSL2+ DSLAMS in locations where a competitor also had such equipment, because they were worried that if they were the only ones at a site then they would be forced to allow competitors access to their DSLAMs. Telstra wanted their competitors to install their own DSLAMs rather than free-ride on Telstra’s risk. What has changed is that Telstra has been given an assurance that they can keep their DSLAMs to themselves, and competitors will need to install their own. Telstra already has to allow competitors to install equipment at their exchanges.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 4:24 pm 08 Feb 08

Unless you get a followup asking for clarification or further information (in which case someone is going likely to be asking Questions on your behalf), you’re being given the “Piss Off, I’m not being paid enough to deal with you” (or “I’m being am happy with my place in the party\paid enough\too much by Other Interested Groups specifically not to deal with questions like this”).

If you want to take it to the top:
Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
The Hon Bruce Billson MP, (Member for Dunkley) B.Billson.MP@aph.gov.au

Or try getting Senator Gazza on the case.

hingo hingo 4:15 pm 08 Feb 08

He is aware of the problems – recognises that these problems are way out of his league, so he has placed it in the ‘too hard basket’. Bob McMullan, you are a bloody joke.

Thumper Thumper 4:11 pm 08 Feb 08

It’s McMullan, what do you expect?

I’ve received equally dismissive letters back from his staff.

Does this bloke actually do anything for the ACT?

Come on, someone voted for him, why?

Ralph Ralph 3:57 pm 08 Feb 08

Disgraceful response from McMullan. In other words, piss off.

B.Thomson B.Thomson 3:52 pm 08 Feb 08

Here is my response from Bob McMullan, who I also forwarded it to after I thought he might want to know.
—-
Dear Mr Thomson

Thank you for your email dated 22 January 2008 to Mr Bob McMullan MP, Member for Fraser.

Mr McMullan appreciates you taking the time to write to him. He is well aware of the broadband internet issues in Gungahlin and is working with his Parliamentary colleagues to have the problems resolved.

Regards.

XXX
Office of Bob McMullan MP
Federal Member for Fraser
—–
My question is – what exactly is he aware of? Is he aware that Telstra are locking third party companies out of their exchanges? Is he aware that there is a number range assignment in Gunghalin that is causing us to misreport as being in Crace? Or is he just aware that ‘there is something wrong with the net’ in Gunghalin.

My hopes are certainly dashed when I saw that Telstra was given the all clear to open up ADSL2 in a lot of exchanges the other day. It appears this government has no concern for the public and instead wants to cosy up to Telstra so they can award them the 8 billion grant to make a fibre network. As if it isn’t bad enough that they own all the copper I am now almost certain that the government is going to hand them the fibre contract as well.

My reasoning is simple – why have all the main media outlets managed to completely mistake the real events that have occured, getting it backwards no less.

Basically, Telstra has been pushing for years to open up ADSL2 in a heap of exchanges where competitors don’t currently have equipment. They were only allowed to offer ADSL2 if someone else did as well. We have all seen how that worked with Gungahlin – Telstra refused to let others in to the building, and also hid the fact that the building even existed.

Now the previous government quite rightly told Telstra they couldn’t open exchanges to ADSL2 without also allowing competitors wholesale access also.

Now this government has done an amazingly stupid thing and given Telstra a green light to not only open up these exchanges, but to legitimately refuse competitors access!!! This makes absolutely no sense at all.

What I find disturbing is that all the main news article have been praising Telstra for turning on the exchanges. Not only that they even go so far as to say things like “Telstra ‘loses game of chicken’ on ADSL2+ rollout” – implying that they have now been forced to open these exchanges. Or even better “Telstra opens floodgates on massive ADSL2+ upgrade”. “Telstra clears way for ADSL2 rollout” etc.

Why would everyone have the facts so very wrong? Why is it that only the 3rd party ISP’s have been crying out in terror. Then when they do, this is the kind of headline they get. “Telstra rival cries to ACCC over ADSL2+”.

Of course, News.com.au is no source for proper investigative reporting. But come on… where is the government going with this.

Luckily I’m not the only one who can see the writing on the wall – http://johnl.blogs.exetel.com.au/index.php?/archives/197-As-Predicted-Labor-Starts-To-Repay-Telstra-For-Election-Support.html

I was starting to feel a bit like Mel Gibson in conspiracy theory.

starry starry 11:17 pm 06 Feb 08

Hi
Im currently with optus and am looking around to see what is available in palmerston……i see most of you are internode users ….what about netspace??

el ......VNBerlinaV8 el ......VNBerlinaV8 11:36 am 26 Jan 08

B. Thomson – please keep us posted if you get a response.

mattyman mattyman 2:24 am 26 Jan 08

I’ve got the same situation in Perth. New house, new suburb – no infrastructure. I’m connected to a RIM which has no more ports available.

I work in a fairly large ISP and there is absolutely nothing that I can do with my “connections” to get Telstra to add more DSL ports to the RIM.

My theory is Telstra wants customers to sign up to their wireless product so they have slowed down the port upgrades. The mum and dads of Australia who try to connect to ADSL then get told, “Aww, sorry. No DSL for you. Here have wireless and give us lots more money.” These people, not being internet savvy hand over their moolah to Telstra who give Trullio another 14 mill payrise.

Their profit margins are much higher on wireless and they don’t get hassled by the gov. to decrease the cost of their wireless product.

I can see over the next few years that Telstra will move further and further away from their copper based products (they don’t want to share) as they now have the wireless product with which they can charge whatever they like.

aetius aetius 10:01 pm 25 Jan 08

well, I had been a Transact customer but then I moved to an out of the way suburb called Narrabundah in an extremely isolated position at least four kilometres from Parliament House and Transact couldn’t provide cable broadband. So, being simple and gullible I enrolled with Next G wireless. Started to use it like I had used Transact cable and within four days I had messages tellin me that I was in danger of using up a month’s available traffic. Then
I took the Dell down the coast and couldn’t connect and was told it was a minor problem and all I had to do was to move to a place where the reception was better, like at the end of the boat ramp facing Chile and all would be well. Now in two weeks I had racked up bankrupting excess charges (why is it that Telstra can find more bytes in a week than Transact could find in two months) so I called it quits, negotiated the cancellation charges down by more than 50 percent and got out. So the market works you might say, but the Mexican bandittos have got the company that I used to own and now they’re screwing us true Texas style. Thank you little Johnnie for selling off my asset and paying off a low interest debt with the proceeds, and making sure that I never receive the benefit of the income that Testra used to provide and I never receive the benefit of the dubious service they used to provide. So instead of receiving 50% of fuck all I receive nil % of fuck all.
Don’t talk to me about next G.

Aetius

B.Thomson B.Thomson 11:39 am 22 Jan 08

Here is a copy of a very long email I sent to Stephen Conroy regarding this exact issue. Hopefully it will all fit in this comment.

—–
I would like to draw your attention to a number of facts that seem to have escaped the previous minister’s notice regarding internet access in the suburbs of Gungahlin, Harrison and surrounds. There are a number of factors surrounding the issue, and reasons for why the vast majority of these new suburbs don’t have access to broadband. But first, some history so you can have the complete picture.

Firstly, I will reference this speech –
———-
Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June)
MR CORBELL: As members will be aware, residents of Gungahlin have endured significant problems with telecommunications access since the establishment of the new town. In particular, there have been repeated problems with black spots for mobile phone communication. These are not just little black spots, either; they are significant holes in the network. In addition, broadband access for internet activity is also severely constricted.

I was very pleased to announce today, along with my colleague the Chief Minister, that the government has agreed to the direct sale of a site in the Gungahlin Town Centre for Telstra to build a new multimillion dollar telephone exchange that will provide high-speed ADSL broadband internet access for all Gungahlin residents. This process has been expedited by the ACT government.

We have worked closely with Telstra over the past two to three months, and we are now delivering for Gungahlin residents the high-speed internet access they need and deserve. It is a big boost for the Gungahlin Town Centre because it means that for the first time businesses locating to the town centre and Gungahlin residents choosing to work from home will have the high-speed internet access they need to make that happen.
———-

This exchange that is referenced was completed in May 2004. According to the company that constructed it (Centre Constructions) it was Telstra’s highest priority at the time. You can view their summary of it’s importance here – http://centreconstructions.com/recent_projects.html#gung

So far so good. The government saw a need and responded to the community by creating a telephone exchange in the area. However, in typical government and Telstra fashion, once the project was finished, support for it was cut and it effectively ceased to exist.

I point you to this reference in 2005 from Kate Lundy’s website. http://www.katelundy.com.au/June2005.htm#20June05. Note that the company registering the complaint was Transact.

Basically, having completed the exchange (which was supposed to be a complete, top of the line, all bells and whistles multi-million dollar project), Telstra then effectively forbid anyone from providing broadband from it.

Surely you may ask yourself, the Telecommunications Act forbids Telstra from offering ADSL2 in an exchange where no other competitor has equipment? Normally this would be true, however thanks to Transact pushing for access, they had equipment installed. Transact as you well know, is a Canberra local service provider and was aware of the problem because of this.

So currently, both Transact and Telstra offer fast broadband in the Gungahlin region. These are the two single most expensive options available to the Australian public. Under normal circumstances, other competitors would see this imbalance and move in, offering faster and cheaper alternatives. This is the loophole that Telstra uses to ensure that they can continue to supply broadband services to the Gungahlin area where there is no other effective competitor.

However Telstra has another weapon up its sleeve that is even more insidious and deadly. I refer to the practice of assigning number ranges to exchanges that are subsets to existing exchanges. In this case, the Gungahlin exchange was assigned the same number range as the existing Crace exchange.

A thread on the popular site whirlpool goes into this in a small amount of detail here – http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies-archive.cfm/771788.html

This is the complicated and last step that has prevented a general take up of broadband services in the Gungahlin area. Purely because Telstra’s competitors don’t know that the Gungahlin exchange exists. Transact, being local knew about it, however no other companies can see it due to this number range issue.

For example, my home phone number is *removed for privacy*. I am connected directly to the Gungahlin exchange, which I have confirmed by correlating my distance from the address of the exchange with my line sync statistics. As a general rule of thumb I also get the full line sync speeds of ADSL1 (8000kbps), which would not be possible if I were not connected directly to the exchange.

However if you were to put this number into any popular ISP’s system, you would see that it instead states that I am connected to the Crace exchange. Try this page here for example – http://www.iinet.net.au/products/broadband/index.html?area=02&prefix=6255&number=6351#bbcheckeranchor

This is how Telstra is getting around allowing people in the Gungahlin area access to faster broadband. By simply pretending that their Gungahlin exchange does not exist.

Hence, every application made by people in Gungahlin/Harrison to Telstra’s competitors (sans Transact) will fail, even though the typical response is that it will be successful. All the ISP’s have rushed to install equipment in Crace, not realising that the majority of users are actually in another exchange entirely.

This problem is only due to get worse – once Forde, Bridgewater and the other suburbs start expanding in population and realise that they will be unable to get internet through anyone other than Telstra or Transact.

There are other issues also, such as the prevalence of RIM’s being used in the Harrison/Gungahlin area by developers who are skimping on supplying adequate connection to the infrastructure (see http://www.adsl2exchanges.com.au/viewsuburb.php?Abbrev=GNGLN – around 50% of Gungahlin and Harrison will never be able to get ADSL2). However this essay has gone on long enough without branching into the myriad issues that surround broadband in our country.

I will be happy if all I have achieved is drawing someone’s attention to the duplicity Telstra has used to ensure that the Crace exchange is the public front of the Northern suburbs, and relegated the Gungahlin exchange to the sidelines.

Even after this has happened and Telstra’s competitors decide to install equipment in Gungahlin, there will be a lead time of several months before this is completed. But we need to act now, or once the population continues to expand in this area it will be too late to meet the demand.

As final proof, here is an email I received from my ISP after I had explained this very issue to them and requested ADSL2 to be installed. I specifically made mention of the fact that the Gungahlin exchange was not a sub exchange, and that it would report as Crace even though this was an incorrect result.
—-
Hello Ben,

Thanks for your email,

I have checked your number but you won’t like the answer.

Crace is your main exchange which is set up for ADSL2+

In between your house & the Crace exchange is the Gungahlin sub exchange.
which is not set up for adsl2+.

Around the country only 20% of all exchanges have ADSL2+ at the moment. The main exchanges are the priority for setting up more adsl2+.

Sub exchanges only service a small number of locations on the outer edge of the coverage range. This is fine for regular adsl but because adsl2+ requires a better line quality many of these locations cannot get adsl2+ so there is no reason to install the equipment.

Once all the main exchanges are completed the techs may look again at sub exchanges but I don’t know if they will be able to install anything because of the distance issues.

Told you you wouldn’t like it. At this time all we can offer is regular adsl.

If you have any questions please email us or call on 1300 300 324

Have a good day,

Regards,
Comcen
Sales Team

el ......VNBerlinaV8 el ......VNBerlinaV8 12:01 am 20 Jan 08

JC is correct. Good news relating to this is just in:

(Full article at http://whirlpool.net.au)
Phil Sweeney | Monday, 9:00 am
PIPE Networks is to go ahead with its $200M plan for a new international link between Australia and Guam.

Guam is an ideal destination as it already has significant connectivity to other countries such as Japan and the US.

iiNet has announced this morning that it has signed up to use the link for 15 years as a “foundation customer”. Other foundation customers include Internode and Primus. “This agreement will provide iiNet with long term supply certainty and significant cost savings”, said iiNet managing director Michael Malone.

The link will break an essential duopoly on international traffic by the Southern Cross Cable (SXC) and Australian Japan Cable (AJC), which are mostly owned by Optus and Telstra respectively.

JC JC 8:31 pm 19 Jan 08

Actually idea_authority you are not quite right. A normal telephone line only has 1 pair to start with. When Telstra use a splitter, which is actually called pair gain they are putting in a device that allows two phone circuits to share the one pair back to the exchange.

As for cutting corners, pre ADSL it was a perfectly valid solution to the problem that there isn’t enough pairs in the street back to the exchange. The reason why there isn’t enough pairs is because a lot of people now have more than one phone line.

As for the cost of ADSL sorry the cost comes from Telstra and the lack of real competition in Australia. As more ISP’s get away from the Telstra network the price should drop.

idea_authority idea_authority 11:36 pm 18 Jan 08

Mr Waffle,

You are so right. Telstra has cut corners all over Australia in years past and it’s coming back to bite them.
Has anyone ever heard of “cable splitting”
A telephone wire has 4 copper wires. In most ares of the South Coast (pre 1990 suburbs) and in some areas of Canberra, they used cable splitting. This entails using 2 wires per home instead of 4 which is cheaper but means those homes are limited to traditional telephony and dial-up and a “slight chance of ISDN”. Cheap SOBs. On the pus side, Telstra has provided excellent nextG coverage around Batemans Bay so you can pay a huge monthly sum for broadband that is wireless instead of a cheaper ADSL set up. Hens when I wanted my grandparents down at BB to have broadband so I could video-conference them on Skype, nextG was too expensive for them so I am now paying for it so they can have it.

Primal Primal 10:44 pm 18 Jan 08

The reason to go with anyone other than Telstra is simple – if/when Telstra rejects your broadband application incorrectly, the ISP can get pissed off on your behalf and is probably much better placed to get an explanation out of them than you are.

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