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Tuesday, 18 December 2007 17:28

Optus betrays loyal customers with disgraceful new broadband plans

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Once considered the ''good guys'' in Australia's broadband price wars, Optus has gone to the dark side - joining Telstra and Dodo in making a fast buck by ripping off Mums n' Dads.

Optus has adopted the philosophy ''there's a sucker born every minute'', an approach that has seen BigPond and Dodo rack up some of the highest ISP customer complaint levels in the country. In a race to the bottom, Optus first began counting uploads towards users monthly limits and has now introduced obscene excess data charges of $150 per GB.

Until now Optus customers have had their internet connection slowed, or shaped, once they reached their monthly limit - thus avoiding excess data charges. Now shaping won't kick in on some plans until users have gone 2GB over their limit, leaving them exposed to potential excess data charges of $300 per month. This is a disgrace. If Optus is retaining the shaping policy to protect users, why does it insist on gouging them for $300 before the safety net kicks in? Why is it charging an outrageous $150 per GB when many ISP charge less than $10. The answer is so it can join the other rip-off merchants in bleeding ignorant customers dry.

All this comes as Optus doubles the download speeds on its cable network to 20 Mbps, giving ADSL2+ a run for its money. Upload speeds have also been doubled to 512 kbps. To add insult to injury, long term Optus cable internet customers will be denied the faster data speeds unless they switch to one of the new rip-off Fusion or MyHome plans. Only the new Fusion plans, which combine the phone and internet on one bill, feature excess data charges. Both the Fusion and MyHome plans count uploads and eliminate the off-peak extra data allowance.

While 20 Mbps sounds attractive, faithful customers are more likely to be upset about being denied the upload speed boost. All Optus cable customers were stuck with a paltry 128 kbps upload speed until two years ago years ago, when the high-end plans were boosted to 256 kbps. A jump to 512 kbps would do wonders for VoIP and video conferencing sessions.

The lure of ADSL2+ plans, with 1 Mbps upload speeds and generous data allowances, has obviously tempted many Optus cable customers. Now Optus has made it clear it's more interested in ripping off newbies than providing value for money for discerning users, such users should feel no guilt in turning their backs on an ISP that has repaid their loyalty with contempt.

As a long term Optus cable customer I've never hesitated to recommend Optus broadband to anyone, but never again. When the original Fusion plans were announced several months ago - combining phone and internet on one bill - I was disgusted by the move to meter uploads but I could still see they were good value plans for lite users. Now such users are also at the risk of a $300 bill blowout, I'll never recommend Optus to anyone again. Thankfully Optus assures me that the excess data charges only apply to new Fusion customers who signed up after December 3.

As one of the companies vying to break Telstra's Australian broadband monopoly, you would expect Optus to try and stand above the rest rather than sink to the level of BigPond's sludge.

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