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(Image by John Graham)

Before moving to Tasmania, Denise McAvaney thought the National Broadband Network was meant to be you know “national”, but she was to be in for a rude shock.

I THOUGHT I DID THE RESEARCH before making the "tree change" decision to move to North Eastern Tassie.

Before the move, I was in contact with my new neighbours on Facebook and by email. So there must be decent internet here, right?

Yeah, right.

My first attempts to get online in our town through Telstra were worthy of black comedy.

I pleaded for cable. “The Telstra exchange is 50 metres from my house; I can see it from my front door."

"There's no ports left on the exchange," came the reply.

"Okay so when is NBN being installed?" 

"Let me just bring up the map......what's your postcode again?"

Long silence followed by slightly less enthusiastic tone from the perky salesperson, desperate to sell me an internet package. "NBN isn't coming to your area."

"Next year?" There was still hope in my naive little heart. Tasmania is part of Australia, right? I am in a town, not 3,000 miles into the outback. I assumed the ‘National’ in ‘National Broadband Network’ meant, you know, "National" — as in nationwide. As in: ‘If you live in this nation, you will be part of the National Broadband Network’.

"Uh, no. There are areas where the NBN isn't yet but will be, but your area isn't one of them."

"So, you're telling me that we can't ever be connected to the NBN?"

"Yes." A moment's pause, then the salesperson perked up. "I can sell you a mobile wireless package though."

"You mean the wireless card? There's no mobile phone coverage in this town, won't I need that for a wireless card thingy?"

"Oh, um....let me just check with my supervisor.”

There was now music in my ear.

After a lengthy pause, she returned. Her voice was distinctly less hopeful. "No, wireless isn't appropriate. We can offer you dial-up."

I have a MacBook. There isn't even a dial-up port in a MacBook.

Dial-up was installed anyway. Other people in my household remained smug about their archaic non-Apple products, that could still connect to 90s technology while I gnashed my teeth.

Next step, satellite broadband.

After shopping around, we settled on a 60GB for sixty dollars a month from Activ8Me — an official NBN provider. The contracted speed of 6MB down, 1 up sounded reasonable.

(We had just moved from WA, where we had a 200GB monthly plan.)

That was over a year ago. Our download speed has never hit 1MB per second, let alone 6MB.

A few months ago, we received a letter informing us our bill was going to be five dollars a month less. How thrilling. Except the reason we were receiving this massive discount is because our satellite plan had been changed ‒ without consultation of the subscribers ‒ to a "Peak/Off-Peak" plan.

From 8am to midnight is peak time. Sixteen hours of the day is slower than dial-up.

YouTube? Maybe at 144p at 3am....

An Activ8Me Tech Support employee today confirmed by telephone that all satellite providers are massively oversubscribed — and are still selling subscriptions despite being completely unable to provide the advertised service.

She acknowledge our choices were the following:

  1. Cancel our package, then re-sign at a thirty dollar package, because Activ8Me cannot physically provide the service at the level of the (now) fifty-five dollar monthly service. Internet speeds will never increase. 
  2. Try another satellite provider, which will achieve nothing, because the bandwidth provided to the satellite providers is already over-supplied and over-subscribed to Australians unable to access other services.

The Activ8Me representative confirmed there "was talk" about another satellite possibly being launched in 2015. Possibly.

Prime Minister Abbott may think the internet is just a fad and, indeed, he is on record as saying the NBN is essentially a video entertainment system” and that25 megs is going to be enough, more than enough, for the average household”. However, whatever his idiosyncratic personal views, the reality is that Australians increasingly rely on high speed access to the internet — not only for leisure, but also for work.

Emails, job search websites like SEEK, distance learning, Centrelink and so on are all online necessities, not luxuries.

To add insult to injury, last week it was revealed that ABC2 may be taken off free-to-air on our National Broadcaster and put on iView. I'm sure my three year old daughter will as delighted to hear that Peppa Pig will now only be available to her by piracy or DVD in the future as I am that I won't be able to watch excellent satirical programme The Roast anymore.

The Coalition government has consistently and deliberately misled Australian voters and taxpayers in the area of Communications since September 2013, slashing services they vowed personally to preserve.

I will be officially complaining to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about the false advertising by satellite providers who cannot provide the service promised.

I fervently hope there will be a Federal ICAC into the deliberate dismantling of Australia's Communications systems in a transparent campaign to deliver Rupert Murdoch a monopoly.

You can follow Denise McAvaney on Twitter @mamaduck9370.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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