As we have mentioned before, the NBN, as it is being rolled out at the moment, is as good as it will get for many years to come. While we remain critical of the government decision to abandon the FttH rollout we are also realistic and there is no option other than to accept what we are getting.
There is no question that even the second-rate NBN will be an improvement for many people in Australia and that, of course, is a bonus. Our message to those who fall into that category is: embrace the opportunity and get a better broadband service.
But many people will not actually get a better service, and the question then will be: why bother?
At our office in North Sydney we had an ADSL2+ service. We changed over to the FttB service – using an equivalently priced product – and the service is no better or worse than our previous service. Higher speeds are available, but then the price shoots up quite dramatically.
In comparison with overseas 50Mb/s and 100Mb/s services, prices in Australia are often nearly twice those in the USA or Europe, or three or more times prices inn some of the leading Asian countries.
So much for using national broadband infrastructure to create a competitive national advantage, stimulate innovation or improve productivity.
In this respect, in most situations the new HFC service will also not be better than the service these people currently already have – so, again, why bother switching?
The situation at our office in Bucketty (Hunter Valley) is even worse. While we are only 100km from Sydney’s CBD the only NBN option here is the satellite, and so we took up the offer and were impressed by the installation process. We are hearing a lot of horror stories from satellite installations in neighbouring communities, but ours went smoothly.
However the actual broadband service is shocking. It is so bad that we have reverted to our ADSL+ service – that gave, and still gives, speeds of 3-5Mb/s. Wanting to give it a good test I have persisted in my use of the satellite service (when others in the house had already given up). The satellite service is consistently slower and drops out on average once every hour – it reconnects rather quickly but it remains annoying.
I am taking part in the ongoing NBN surveys and have agreed to a telephone discussion they proposed on this matter – but so far they have failed to contact me.
We will persist with using the satellite service for a while longer – I will keep on testing it, albeit intermittently, just to see if the service will improve. However, if that does not happen we will cancel our service.
At the same time I think of the costs to NBN Co here. The dish and the installation are very costly and if more people have similar experiences to ours this might create an extra cost burden to the company.
All of this raises the question of what will happen with the existing (mainly copper) Telstra networks? If many people decide not to switch over will the government force these people to accept a service that is worse than, or at best equivalent to, what we have now?