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Are you happy with your broadband connection?

Be grateful for what you already have is the message we're getting from Federal Government Minister Helen Coonan in the wake of Telstra's decision to axe its Fibre To The Node project.

Jeremy Roche

commentary "Be grateful for what you already have" is the message we're getting from Federal Government Minister Helen Coonan in the wake of Telstra's decision to halt its Fibre To The Node project.

Another hurdle for broadband development in Australia came up this week when Telstra halted plans for a new optical fibre network in five capital cities -- Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth -- after talks with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission came to a stalemate.

Although the fibre network would have laid a foundation for future fixed-line telecommunications services, Communications Minister Helen Coonan played down the situation yesterday by saying Internet users in these areas should already be happy with broadband speeds.

What is most concerning about Coonan's attitude is that it reeks of contentment. Shouldn't our Federal Government Ministers be striving to improve the industries under their control, rather than taking an it's-all-good attitude?

While broadband technologies like ADSL2+ are great if you happen to live within a stone's throw of a supported telephone exchange, connection speeds degrade quickly when data has to be carried kilometres over copper wire. And even though Telstra owns all of the exchanges and the copper, it has taken smaller Internet service providers such as Internode and iiNet to foster broadband growth by circumventing the 1.5Mbps limit imposed by our Government-owned telco.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia ranked seventeenth in the OECD countries in terms of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants at the end of 2005. readers have written in countless times to let us know that broadband availability in regional and rural areas continues to be an issue -- one reader seven kilometres out of Gympie was told by Telstra not only that they couldn't get broadband, but not to expect it any time soon.

It's a shame that Australian consumers will have to sit and wait while Telstra uses its weight to get whatever it is it wants. Perhaps the other players combining together will gather enough muscle to push Telstra out of the way and get on with plans for providing alternative infrastructure.

Have you got a Telstra horror story to share? Do you think Helen Coonan is out of touch or lacking vision? What do you think is hindering broadband in Australia? Leave your comments below.