Access confusion

AUSTRALIA’S broadband Internet content providers are being encouraged to use the recently established Western Australian Internet Exchange (WAIE) as an alternative network through which they can provide low priced broadband Internet content to ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) customers.

WAIE was established by the Western Australian Internet Association (WAIA) to help reduce the current high download cost per megabyte of content, and put an end to the current monopoly held by Telstra and Optus in the ADSL content market.

The sign-up rate for high-speed broadband Internet services initially has been slow for several reasons, according to WAIA spokesperson Kim Heitman. He says one of the biggest issues facing the broadband Internet industry at the moment is the prohibitive cost of downloading available content.

“We have to move towards a pipeline pricing model where the consumer pays for the cost of the pipe and what flows down has been paid for, rather than paying a per megabyte cost as it flows from the pipe,” Mr Heitman says. “This will present the opportunity for broadband content providers to provide content that is economically viable to both parties.”

Presently the system used by most broadband Internet service providers is one where there is an established megabyte download limit per month for the service. If a customer exceeds their megabyte download limit, additional charges of between 15 and 19 cents per megabyte are incurred.

“Let’s say it (the megabyte limit) is 500Mb of data for the month. This can be used up in five minutes on a high-speed broadband service. You have to be very careful with how you use the service so as not to incur any extra charges,” Mr Heitman says.

“If we can get the pricing model right, then I believe that it (ADSL broadband Internet) will be a success.”

The second reason for a slow sign-up rate of broadband Internet services relates to the general lack of content. Currently there is a catch-22 scenario occurring within the industry. A slow sign-up rate and lack of demand for content makes it uneconomical to produce extra content, and the lack of content available does nothing to encourage people to install broadband Internet services.

A third reason is the rivalry between, and confusion concerning, the differences of the four main modes of broadband Internet delivery. Access to high-speed broadband Internet services currently are available through four different modes of delivery to your computer:

p cable, such as optic fibre PayTV cable systems;

p ADSL, which runs off the existing telephone line networks;

p satellite, which is accessed through a satellite dish connection; and

p WDSL, or Wireless Digital Subscriber Line, a form of digital datacasting.

The confusion stems from the availability of the different services in different areas. Every suburb in the Perth metropolitan area is catered for in terms of access to high-speed broadband Internet services, but there often is little scope for choice.

For example, there is limited access to cable services in the Perth metropolitan area. Up to a third of suburbs in Perth cannot access ADSL services due to problems with the telephone exchanges. Satellite is available everywhere once you have installed a satellite dish, but it is unreliable, while WDSL access seems only to be inhibited by the initial outlay for antennas, decoders and connection.

Mr Heitman believes the current infrastructure and total network are not geared up to provide everyone with access to high-speed broadband Internet access.

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