Okay, look. I know that Australia is a technological wasteland and it is damned expensive to have us connected to the global grid because we’re so far away from everywhere. Download limits on our internet, and all that (I’m currently allowed 11GB per month for which I pay AUS$45). Read Neil Stephenson’s ridiculously long and entertaining article on undersea data cables (“Mother Earth Mother Board”) for some insight on why it’s expensive to get internet down under.
It’s always been expensive to access the internet in Australia. Our first plan when I was a teenager cost $5 per hour at 14.4 kbps. These crazy prices were always initiated by our national carrier, Telstra, who charges through the roof and caters only to those who don’t have the time or energy to shop around to the cheaper alternatives. Or who live in regional areas.
Yes, Telstra does a lot of infrastructure work, including having to cater to this regional population that’s not huge in number but spread over an enormous area — think trying to economically provide internet to every resident of New York City but spread them over the entire land mass of America. Not an easy, or cheap, problem.
Nonetheless, there are competitors to Telstra (in the civilised parts of the country) that manage not to charge ludicrous amounts for their services. To use the example above of how much I pay for internet at the moment, the equivalent Telstra plan by price is $40/month which gives me paltry 400MB and 15¢ per MB after that. OUCH.
To be fair, paying $90/month is pretty much the same as my current $45 plan, so it’s only twice as expensive at the higher end of the scale.
On that note, let’s look at Telstra’s new rates for iPhone 3G. There’s a story in The Australian that compares the different carriers in more detail. Well, here’s the simplified look:
Carrier Cost Calls Data Telstra $80/mth $ 70 5 MB Optus $79/mth $550 700 MB
What. The. Fuck. That’s orders of magnitude difference, even after considering that the per-minute rate for calls is about 30% cheaper on Telstra. The article is bang on the money as to the reasons behind this huge pricing chasm:
… the low data capacity has been included to protect Telstra’s walled garden of online content.
The day that big telcos get out of the services game and realise that their purpose in life should be to make money in connectivity, and that’s it, will be a happier day for everyone. Just let me pay for bits from where-ever, and compete doing that the cheapest and fastest and most agnostic way possible. We don’t want to buy goods from an ISP.