Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Life on the Coast

I've only been on the coast for a month now, still time enough for me to make a few comparisons (some dreadfully obvious - sorry):

  • Weather - hot & muggy compared to fricken hot and dry. Thunderstorms that actually rain when they go over you. Forecasts you can set your watch to.
  • Infrastructure - Footy oval-size roundabouts must be clearly cheaper than traffic lights up here - but they are growing on me. Then there's the whole broadband situation.
  • Economy - Finding a business that somehow indirectly doesn't support the tourism industry is difficult... Capital city economies seem to be more generic and self sufficient; not directly dependant on any one sector. Urban economics fascinate and befuddle me.
  • Flora - Palm trees seem to be the go in your garden up here.
  • TV - Free to air kicks but up here! 2 or three versions of every station, gives you Bris, GC and Sydney/NSW regional... crap reception where we are though. Never miss a cricket match on tellie because i'm in the same city.
  • Motorcyclists - Skin grafts must be cheap up here; most folk are happy with shorts and singlets. On a hot day I can't blame them though.
  • Houses - No heater. I was amazed when we moved in. Now I understand.
  • Shops - The general store/milk bar still has a place in society, as does the small to medium shopping centre. Brilliant.

These are just a few things I have noticed... as time goes by I will be surely assimilated into the collective and my perception of normal will conform.

Telstra Whinge

I have now settled into a life on the Gold Coast that sees me limited by local infrastructure to dialup speeds that were outdated 10 years ago. Let me whine about a few things to make myself feel better.

Pair Gains

Not only do these things exclude you from ADSL access (although they can be removed), they have got to be one of the most devious trade practices that I have ever come across. Basically, each home has a copper cable entering it from the street. That cable has 6 smaller wires inside of it. Once pair gain has been set up, a single phone line requires just 2 little wires. So effectively you could get 3 separate lines from your one copper cable. Great idea; it serves the needs of many. But to charge a whole extra line rental for this is very sneaky. Remember you also pay a couple of hundred bucks to get a bloke out to set it up, so that should be covered you would think... It is akin to the power company charging you double your service fee for each power point in your house. It costs Telstra next to nothing to maintain this line, it is just another entry in a database somewhere and all the switching takes care of itself. I would have thought a reduced service charge would be applicable for each additional line on that cable... you still pay for the calls, so where is the actual cost to Telstra to maintain this 'extra line'? If there isn't one, why are we being charged? A word starting with profit and ending with eering comes to mind. Please enlighten me if I am not seeing the whole picture.

Remote Integrated Multiplexer Systems (RIMS)

These unholy devices are a lesser example of Telstra's attempts to shaft the public, but a good demonstration of total lack of foresight. Basically a RIM is a big green cabinet you might see on the side of a street usually in a new estate. All the copper cables from everyone's houses are mashed into this thing. Out the other end, a few runs of fiber optic cable go to the local exchange. This way, Telstra can add new lines into the estate without having to run copper cables too far - just from the RIM to the house, not from the exchange to the house. One the surface, it sounds like a good way to provide a service without investing too much on the infrastructure.

But these nasty devices usually prevent every house attached to it from getting ADSL. In fact, it (or pair gain I forget) generally restricts even dialup speeds to 28.8 kps. OK, so this sounds like the infrastructure is a bit behind the technology. So where's the profiteering? My main gripe is that the service charge is exactly the same for those poor disheveled folk living off a RIM as it is for those who enjoy higher bandwidth and ADSL capabilities. Why should you be charged the same price if Telstra can't deliver the same services?
To Telstra's credit, they have endeavored to rectify this problem in a lost of NSW metro areas and major regional centers (press release). I can't accept the line that "delivering high speed internet services on normal phone lines was not contemplated" as an excuse - sure they didn't see it coming - but their unwillingness to fix it has been appalling.

So are their claims that they are "on track to provide access to ADSL broadband to over 90% of customers nationally by the end of 2006". Ninety percent is not an acceptable number. You still have 10% of the population who are disadvantaged in the internet economy, hundreds of thousands of people unable to get access to broadband. Some of those people may a fast internet to do their job properly and competitively (like me) and Telstra has them at a disadvantage.
There are also a whole lot of other whacky corner-cutting technologies employed to give people the basic phone service which limits their broadband access that I haven't covered here.

My message to the telco behemoth is to open up the coffers filled by super-sized profits (a lot of it from the 100% profit gleaned from pair gains?) and respect your customers enough to give them the infrastructure they need to live and work in the 21st century.