OPINION | The download crawl is reality for many

 DODGY BROTHERS VERSION: Some of us have fibre-to-the-node, some of have fibre-to-the-home, and some of us will still be waiting for years to see whether they get the good version or the crawl version.
DODGY BROTHERS VERSION: Some of us have fibre-to-the-node, some of have fibre-to-the-home, and some of us will still be waiting for years to see whether they get the good version or the crawl version.

HOW’s your internet speed?

Mine’s so slow that my credit card number expires while I’m ordering online.

Then again, I’m not on the National Broadband Network (NBN) yet. I live in a forgotten corner of Leumeah that is Priority Z in the grand rollout. Christmas 2020 – if we’re lucky.

But those of us unlucky to be living in the lesser corners of Macarthur are wondering how things might change once the NBN is finally connected. Going by the local online comments I’ve seen lately, the results seem to be a mixed bag.

Kenya is our international yardstick for internet speeds. Really?

An Advertiser reader from Narellan last week claimed a download speed of 65mbps (Megebits per second). Now that’s just crazy! A Campbelltown reader also wrote: “I have NBN and my speeds are 24mbps download and 6 mbps upload.” Wow.

But other locals with the NBN say it’s “slow as hell”.

“We are at Cobbitty and have NBN. It’s crap. We lose signal all the time,” was one of the comments I saw.

Federal Labor MP Dr Mike Freelander says he get lots of complaints from people with the NBN, re slow speeds.

So, why the discrepancies?

I’m no expert, but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the problems are related to marketing and customer service by retail service providers – in short, it’s not his fault, or the NBN’s fault.

But Labor says it’s because Mr Turnbull and Tony Abbott went with the cheap “Dodgy Brothers” version of fibre-to-the-node in some suburbs, not the fibre-to-the-house model for all. (That means some areas – such as parts of Ruse and Ambarvale, I’m told – are getting super fast broadband to their street corner…but then it crawls via the old copper network to their home).

“It’s like trying to funnel all the traffic on Narellan Road onto a laneway,” one angry work-from-homer told me.

A spokesman for Telstra told the media that speeds “vary due to quite a large number of factors”. Well, that pretty much covers everything: from rain and unicorns to UFOs.

You know, I totally understand that this is an amazing nationwide project that people should be proud of, and that disappointments in NBN speed might be due to overpromising by greedy service providers. But, if overpromising is the issue, many of us remember the televised Turnbull/Abbott broadband policy launch in 2013, which promised that by 2016 we’d all have “minimum” downloads speeds of 25mbps. 

In the street I live in, we throw a party if we can get speeds of 3mbps. It usually floats around 1mbps.

Now, we can’t really blame Tony Abbott. This is a bloke who thinks you eat onions raw with the skin still on, and I suspect he thinks a “broadband network” is a television station that runs music clips by The Veronicas, The Bangles and The Go-Gos.

But Mr Turnbull is supposed to be a cluey bloke who knows how it all works.

Yet we have the news story last week that Australia has slumped to 50th place on a global ladder of internet speeds – behind Kenya.

Emerging African nations are our yardstick. Really?

But that is based on an average Australian speed of 10mbps! That means for some parts of Macarthur, on 1-3mbps, our yardstick is the Falkland Islands.

Aren't we the country that, thanks to our CSIRO, invented wi-fi? (Then again, that’s the same CSIRO that had its funding ripped away).

The saddest part is, with its multi-technology NBN platforms – some to the node, some to the house – our government is creating an unforgivable new social divide: the haves and the have nots. 

But that’s what they do.