It is now about 3 years since ADSL - or broadband over phone lines - became available in Australia. Unlike Cable internet, ADSL is able to be delivered over traditional phone lines, meaning, for the first time, most Australians could get access to fast internet services without waiting for new cables to be rolled down their street by Optus or Foxtel.
Of course, that's how it was supposed to work in theory. As many of you will know, either directly or through talking to others who've been left in the dark, it isn't quite that simple.
After a discussion with the team at Telstra, however, we're excited to be promoting an answer to many of your problems - the Broadband Demand Register.
In Australia, Telstra manages pretty much all of the copper phone cables and all of the regional exchanges, which puts them in a fairly central position to the question of broadband access. While there are many ADSL providers in Australia, almost all of them actually resell Telstra's service, relying on the big Australian telco to provide the cables and exchange enabling equipment, called DSLAMs (pronounced dee-slams), which enable phone lines to become ADSL enabled. So, when people complain about their ability to get access to ADSL, they generally complain to Telstra.
Many of the reasons why people can't get broadband are linked to network issues. Put simply, the copper phone lines we use to speak on every day were not intended to do the job ADSL asks them to do. Technology on the phone lines, like RIMS (think of them as mini-exchanges and booster systems used in new or far-flung areas to connect homes and businesses back to the exchange on a single circuit) or pair gain services used to make ADSL impossible to deliver.
There are now solutions to most of these problems, and the challenge is one of economics. It costs between $40k and $100k to enable an exchange to support ADSL, and there are steep costs on enabling RIMS and fixing the pair gain circuits. And even if money for equipment was unlimited, it takes time and specialist skills to run around the country fitting all this gear. To help prioritise their work, Telstra has set up the Broadband Demand Register.
This register, like a waiting list, tells Telstra you'd like to have ADSL where you live, but you can't get it for some reason. It's free to sign up, there's no obligation to buy the service from Telstra when it is available, and as a result of the register, 11 exchanges and 6 other blocking circuits have been upgraded in the last 6 weeks alone.
Individuals, businesses and local communities are urged to register, as high demand leads to a quicker enablement/upgrade of the service that's blocking your connection.
If you still can't get broadband via ADSL, the Federal Government has introduced subsidies to reduce the cost of 2-way satellite. This funding, supplied under the HiBIS scheme is great where distance from exchanges is never going to allow ADSL services - email Alan.Maher@team.telstra.com from Illawarra Countrywide to find out more or be referred to your nearest Telstra representative.
To put your name on the register, fill in the form below. Your details will then be emailed to the Broadband Demand Register, and you may be contacted by Telstra staff to discuss your application & needs.
Update (Nov 2007): The Broadband Register signup has now been supersceded by direct contact with Telstra. Please contact Telstra direct at www.bigpond.com to register your interest.