Broadband - Cable and ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line)
by Keith Lightbody - Facilities Consultant - last updated 3 January 2007
!Despite the very high cost I could never go back to a dial up modem - broadband is better!

Always on! Allows a completely different style of using the Internet! The Internet becomes a tool ready to be used whenever you want - very liberating (similar to the freedom of wireless networking with laptop computers). My family now find using the Internet easier, far more productive and more enjoyable. You are permanently connected to the world. No need to check if someone else in the family wants to use the Internet before disconnecting. No longer any need to wait if you are working off line on the computer and need something from the Internet. Surf for 1 hour or 24 hours with no dial-up costs. As soon as your computer is ready - one click - one second and you are online (remember it costs ~20 cents every time you connect on a standard dial up 56 k modem - one call a day is ~$6 per month). Always on Internet plus a well structured search using Google allows you to find out practically anything whenever you need it!

Fast! 10 - 100 times faster on current cable or ADSL plans than typical 56 k modem speeds e.g. 7 Mb download in 2 minutes on 512 kbps ADSL service (same download took approximately half an hour on 56 k modem!) NOTE: ~5 x faster if you select a cheap ADSL plan, ~20 x faster if you select an expensive ADSL plan. With the Telstra residential only ADSL or Cable plans there are now caps on the amount you can download each month before incurring extra charges (my account has 10 GB per month download limit - you can install a usage toolbar or check usage online).

Teenagers love broadband! It allows them to live with the Internet. My daughter is artistic and really appreciates the ability to browse fast and communicate immediately with like minded artistic people around the world - her online friends share art work and drawings they have created, watch videos and read web comics. My son is into online computer games - low ping rate is critical for realistic and fast response times in games (and credibility with his mates) - networked games are great on broadband - also all players on a team can be connected by voice and this is far better on broadband than dial up

Instant email! With a permanent connection to the Internet, you can receive almost instant alerts on your computer screen as soon as someone sends an email. There is no need to continually dial up to retrieve messages. You are able to receive email from different POP accounts.

Great for software updates! Most operating systems, Internet browsers, virus checkers and applications software now offer updates via the Internet. Some of these are many megabytes (MB) so it is great to be able to download the latest update quickly.

ADSL works on an existing home phone line so no additional telephone line is required - subject to suitable exchange and verification tests! You can check if your local Australian telephone exchange is compliant by entering your phone number at (there is an increasing number of exchanges now available). This saves the installation cost (~ $200) and rental costs (~$30 per month) of a second telephone line.

Share Internet access with other computers in the house. Subject to the conditions of your account you may be able to connect a router (e.g. 10/100 Mbps Internet Access Gateway Router, some common models with built in Firewalls include Netgear, DLink ~ $200). Even with multiple users the access speed is still much better than a 56 k modem.

Our ADSL service has worked effectively on both Mac and Windows computers.

Great for accessing streaming media (audio or video).

Allows good quality video conferencing between self and other users with high bandwidth.

Easy to access interactive Internet activities or collaborate with global users.

Installation is typically less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

ADSL1 was capable of up to 1.5 Mbps but ADSL2 offers higher speeds 8-24 Mbps. The Alcatel Speed Touch HOME ADSL modem I was provided with plugs into the normal phone socket. It is capable of up to 8 Mbps downstream and up to 800 kbps upstream. It supports Windows or Mac users via the Ethernet port. While the ADSL session is live it is possible to simultaneously run a voice call or a 56 k modem session over the same phone line! It is nice to still be able to get phone calls when someone in the family is on the Internet for hours! In our case existing telephones in the house had a filter added between each telephone and the standard telephone socket on the ADSL line - alternatively a single house filter can be applied to service all telephone sockets in the house.

Expensive! Installation for my first 12 month Telstra ADSL contract was $259 (although always check for any special offers - at present you can buy 'do-it-yourself' ADSL connection kits at nominated shops to avoid an installation visit). Some ISP plans have limits on the amount that can be downloaded per month on ADSL accounts (e.g. 500 Mb free then 10 -16 cents per Mb). Charges for broadband in Australia remain very high compared to those countries with more competitive telecommunications industries. Also the Australian government does not have broadband as a priority - unlike Singapore, Korea and USA.

Telstra! There were many times in the first 12 months when Telstra customer service was very poor. Home users seem to get a raw deal while Telstra chases business users. Our initial '12 month contract' was changed without negotiation twice in Telstra's favour. The first I heard of each change was from friends or in the newspaper. Another change was to increase our monthly fee while decreasing the speed! When notification arrived less than 14 days were allowed for customers to make any changes. In our home in WA we have had relatively few failures in the ADSL service (once a month on average) - unfortunately the quickest way to find out if Telstra has a service problem is to go to their website - not easy when your ADSL connection is down! On several occasions we have needed Telstra technical staff to reset the ADSL or cable connection at their end. If you need to call the Telstra technical support then have your account number ready - you will be processed as though you are a machine - the courtesy of using peoples names may come later if you are lucky! Once when I provided positive suggestions about how difficult it was at that time to find usage details on the Bigpond website I was later phoned by a Telstra consultant and I was criticised for my lack of understanding (fortunately Telstra has now made their website easier to use). In June 2002 my first application to Telstra for Cable was lost without trace in one week. However my second application for Cable progressed smoothly and I was connected within 1 week! Another positive was the move by Telstra to guarantee continuity of service or provide a partial refund of the monthly fee.

Hackers! Permanently on means your computer immediately becomes an attractive target for hackers. I have had my computer hacked at least twice (when my Firewall settings were incorrect) - my mail settings were altered each time - I strongly recommend a permanent Firewall. Do not keep any auto entry passwords on your computer. Personal firewall, virus and privacy control software (e.g. Norton Internet Security ~$130) may also be helpful. Make regular backups of your hard drive.

Managing your bandwidth! Staying under your capped monthly limit requires great care and constant checking - there are many ways you or your family can generate heavy traffic (uploading or downloading) - large video files, music files, games servers outside your network, listening to radio stations, using voice, etc - if you have teenagers they will find a way! Training and constant monitoring is critical - my teenage son caused $100 extra charges one month, however my friends teenage son generated $400 in extra charges in one month! Also the Usage Meters at some ISPs can be flooded with traffic or fail near the end of the month so you can not get an accurate and up to date measure of your total uploads and downloads. Many ISPs do not provide any details as to what traffic caused the excess charges - it could even have been a hacker.

ADSL bandwidth is not guaranteed (ISDN service does guarantee bandwidth). Only some ADSL accounts allow networking of multiple users, hosting or static IP addresses. ADSL currently requires a straight PSTN line (e.g. not PABX or Commander systems). Last year some services were not compatible with ADSL (e.g. Faxstream).

In 2001 the time taken by Telstra to process an ADSL application and complete the installation could exceed one month. The time taken to get through to a Telstra phone support person during the application process was often half an hour. Fortunately increased competition in the ADSL market resulted in improved service in 2002. However one service call in 2003 took 1 hour from the time I dialed until the final goodbye from the third Telstra operative.

The Telstra ADSL connection kit at the time included:
* Alcatel ADSL modem
* Ethernet card or USB to Ethernet adapter if required
* Telephony filters or central splitter
* Installation software CD
"Do-it-yourself" kits are now available.

Some of my observations about ADSL were after 15 months use of a Telstra Freedom ADSL plan at home in the Perth metropolitan area in Western Australia. All prices mentioned are in Australian dollars and include GST. The ADSL service uses the standard copper phone wiring in houses combined with special technology at the local exchange to achieve much higher bandwidths than an analogue modem over the same line (typically 10 x faster!). NOTE: I have now spent an additional 4 years on Cable - I switched as the few suburbs in Perth that were lucky enough to be cabled can currently get faster download speeds than a similarly priced ADSL plan. Currently at my home Cable is approx 5 x faster than ADSL - my last test of a 20 MB download was completed in 1 minute - however this will vary as more people in a suburb connect to Cable. First published online in March 2002. Currently up to 20 people per week visit this site. Please feel free to email me with suggestions or comments. Statistics on usage of this site are gathered by Chilli Tech web stats.

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