Home Seeking Nerdvana Forget YouTube, Australia's fraud-band makes online video a pipe dream


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Forget watching movies on YouTube or downloaded to your PlayStation 3 - many Australians on so-called broadband barely have the capacity to check their email thanks to Telstra.

Australia's Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, recently crowed about the fact more Australians are subscribing to broadband than dial-up. She was citing the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Internet Activity Survey, but she conveniently ignored the fact that what Australia (ie Telstra) calls broadband is considered glorified dial-up by the rest of the world.

According to the survey, 34 per cent of Australian homes with broadband are on pitiful 256Kbps connections. To make matters worse, most of these homes would be Telstra BigPond customers stuck with pathetic 200MB monthly download limits. Even BigPond's next plan up only offers 400MB per month at 1500Kbps (for a long time it was at 512Kbps). This is fraud-band, 200MB works out at 6.66MB a day - which is barely enough to check your email let alone do anything interesting like internet telephony or video on demand.

Unbelievably, BigPond charges $29.95 a month for this crap, with phenomenal excess data fees of $150 per GB. To add insult to injury, it even counts your uploads towards your monthly limit. For the same price from almost any other Australian DSL provider you can get at least 4GB, with $3 per GB for excess data and your uploads not included. Unfortunately many of BigPond's competitors have been forced to introduce budget plans to compete, meaning even more people end up with fraud-band.

If the government wants to fix broadband in this country, it should start by banning ISPs like BigPond from selling plans offering less than 3GB per month in downloads and 512Kbps download speeds.

BigPond's 200MB and 400MB plans have destroyed broadband in Australia. By locking people into such pathetic plans, Telstra is suffocating innovation and competing businesses. Thanks to BigPond, many homes lack the download speeds or monthly download allowance to do any of the things that make high speed internet access worth having. This of course means there's little point in companies offering services such as Video on Demand because hardly anyone can use them.

BigPond has its own BigPond Movies download service, so how does it manage when many of its customers don't have the monthly data allowance to download even one movie? CONTINUED

How do BigPond customers on 200MB per month download a 1.5GB movie from BigPond Movies? Easy, BigPond doesn't count downloads from BigPond Movies towards the download limits of BigPond customers. With its minuscule download limits BigPond has created an artificial walled garden - you don't need fences when you cut people off at the knees so they can't go anywhere else. What chance do other music and movie download services have?

BigPond Movies competitor, fledgling startup ReelTime, is reportedly in danger of going under any day now - yet what chance did it have of survival in a market where many people just don't have the data allowance to download movies unless it's from BigPond?

BigPond is internet for dummies an no-one in their right mind would sign up with BigPond if they had an alternative. So why do people pay good money for this junk? Because they're stupid and they don't know any better. If the government wants to fix broadband in this country, it should start by protecting people against ISPs selling such crap.

At the moment BigPond is flogging its rip-off entry plans half price for 12 months, hoping to lock people into two year plans before competitors' ADSL2+ services reach their suburb. Telstra's market domination and massive advertising budget ensures plenty of idiots sign up with BigPond before they realise how much or a rip-off the service is compared to almost any other provider.

Even BigPond realises its plans are a disgrace. I know several people who were stupid enough to sign up for the entry level plans without asking for my advice first. When their two year plans expired recently, they took my advice and rang BigPond to tell them they were leaving because the plans were so bad. BigPond offered them a free nine-month upgrade to a 10GB p/m plan - anything to stop them moving to another ISP and discovering how bad BigPond really is. Had they not of complained they'd still be on 400MB.  

Fraud-band is keeping Australia in the internet dark ages. If ReelTime dies, the blood is on Telstra's hands. The death of ReelTime would also be a signal to the rest of the world that Australia is a broadband backwater not worth investing in. A range of video download services have sprung up around the world over the last few months. The XBox 360 has one, the PlayStation 3 is getting one and the Apple TV video on demand service is going to shake things up later this year. Don't expect to see any of these in Australia anytime soon. Not when BigPond keeps Australians on a drip feed.


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