Why broadband DSL is worthless for many Australians

The commercial promise in the 1990's was that broadband will take over, and the sellers will make a fortune. It hasn't happened so far. I don't think it will until the price changes.

Yes, the speed of broadband is attractive. However, for the phone company to make more money than a plain phone line, it needs to charge more. Basically, for most people, broadband isn't worth three or four times a phone line. What can they get over broadband that is worth the extra cost? Films? Broadband costs make that pointless. The bandwidth of a single video tape exceed the allocation for a month of home broadband.

Broadband often isn't worth having in Australia because of download limits and pricing. Most low end DSL pricing allows only 500 MB a month downloaded, at a price approximating a phone connection and dialup internet service with a similar download capacity.

Cable (for TV) rollout stalled many years ago, with a very limited number of connections. No real increase in subscriber numbers appears likely, while the cable companies lose money. So for new users, the most likely access is DSL rather than cable. For many years, cable companies were uninterested in providing internet hookups, and offered only TV.

The big win for broadband is speed. It is quicker than dialup, provided the other end is working quickly. However half the sites you connect to are slow from their end, not at your end.

The always on nature (at least when it isn't having technical hitches) is also of use. I can see internet cafes, small business offices and similar sized enterprises finding it of use. Pricing plans for large quantities of data reduce the cost per byte, so sharing the line makes sense (of course, then the speed may drop).

Always on connections are just a way of serving up viruses, and being attacked by crackers. You need to weigh the increased risk against the advantages.

ADSL here is often reported as flakey and unreliable, with two hour outages reported. I have no idea whether this is accurate or typical, but I'd like to hear good things about it prior to paying for it myself.

Single use DSL connections run something over A$50 for 500MB a month. That is less than an hour of downloading. Less than a CD worth of data. From the takeup rates, it looks like many Australians decided they didn't download that much very often (email and news feeds will not need very much). When you start getting 3GB or more, prices more than double, which seems to be worthwhile only to people with an interest in multimedia downloads. In 2002, 70,000 Australian businesses ran broadband (maybe 10%), as did 233,700 homes, while another source says 363,500 subscribers. yet another says 173,200 cable and 139,900 DSL subscribers. These figures are increasing faster than economic growth, and it will be interesting to see when they stabilise.

It seems to me that at present there are few compelling applications or content to justify paying a premium for broadband.

Another problem with DSL is that it simply isn't universally available, and never will be. If you are distant from the phone exchange it doesn't work. It also doesn't work with phone services connected via RIM (remote integrated multiplexor, a little curbside mini-exchange used in congested areas). It doesn't work with pair gain wiring, where an existing line has been split between two subscribers, as is also common in areas short of connections.

DSL isn't portable. If you work from two locations, like an office plus your home, you can't transfer your DSL account between them the way you can a dialup connection. DSL is also no use when you travel with a computer, so it is no use when you go on holidays.

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